Not only did this allow me to complete all possible science and math courses by the end of my junior year, but it also surrounded me with the smartest kids of the grades above me, allowing me access to the advanced research they were working on. As such, I developed an innate understanding of topics such as protein function in the brain and differential equation modeling early in high school, helping me develop a strong science and math foundation to supplement my passion for engineering.
I sought to make design collaborative, not limited to the ideas of one person.
Most of all, I sought to solve problems that impact the real world. Inspired by the water crisis in India, I developed a water purification system that combines carbon nanotube filters with shock electrodialysis to both desalinate and purify water more efficiently and cost-effectively than conventional plants. The project received 1st Honors at the Georgia Science Fair.
Working on these two projects, I saw the raw power of engineering — an abstract idea gradually becoming reality. I was spending most of my days understanding the why behind things, while also discovering solutions to prevalent issues. Thirteen years have passed since that maiden flight, and I have yet to crack physical human flight. My five-year-old self would have seen this as a colossal failure.
But the intense curiosity that I found in myself that day is still with me.
It has continued to push me, forcing me to challenge myself to tackle ever more complex problems, engrossed by the promise and applicability of engineering. I may never achieve human flight. However, now I see what once seemed like a crash landing as a runway, the platform off of which my love of engineering first took flight. We paused and listened, confused by sounds we had only ever heard on the news or in movies. My mother rushed out of the house and ordered us inside. The Arab Spring had come to Bahrain. I learned to be alert to the rancid smell of tear gas.
Its stench would waft through the air before it invaded my eyes, urging me inside before they started to sting. Newspaper front pages constantly showed images of bloodied clashes, made worse by Molotov cocktails. Martial Law was implemented; roaming tanks became a common sight. Bahrain, known for its palm trees and pearls, was waking up from a slumber. The only home I had known was now a place where I learned to fear. September — Two and a half years after the uprisings, the events were still not a distant memory.
I decided the answer to fear was understanding. I began to analyze the events and actions that led to the upheaval of the Arab Springs. In my country, religious and political tensions were brought to light as Shias, who felt underrepresented and neglected within the government, challenged the Sunnis, who were thought to be favored for positions of power. I wanted equality and social justice; I did not want the violence to escalate any further and for my country to descend into the nightmare that is Libya and Syria.
September — Pursuing understanding helped allay my fears, but I also wanted to contribute to Bahrain in a positive way. I participated in student government as a student representative and later as President, became a member of Model United Nations MUN , and was elected President of the Heritage Club, a charity-focused club supporting refugees and the poor.
As an MUN delegate, I saw global problems from perspectives other than my own and used my insight to push for compromise. I debated human rights violations in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from an Israeli perspective, argued whether Syrian refugees should be allowed entry into neighboring European countries, and then created resolutions for each problem. In the Heritage Club, I raised funds and ran food drives so that my team could provide support for less fortunate Bahrainis. We regularly distributed boxed lunches to migrant workers, bags of rice to refugees and air conditioners to the poor.
Both Shia and Sunni candidates are selected, helping to diversify the future leadership of my country. I was shortlisted to attend the training during that summer.
But as I learned to apply different types of leadership styles to real-life situations and honed my communication skills to lead my team, I began to see what my country was missing: harmony based on trust. Bringing people together from different backgrounds and successfully completing goals—any goal—builds trust. And trust is the first step to lasting peace.
October — I have only begun to understand my people and my history, but I no longer live in fear. Instead, I have found purpose. I plan to study political science and economics to find answers for the issues that remain unresolved in my country. Bahrain can be known for something more than pearl diving, palm trees, and the Arab Spring; it can be known for the understanding of its people, including me. I have been pooped on many times.
I mean this in the most literal sense possible. I have been pooped on by pigeons and possums, house finches and hawks, egrets and eastern grays. Actually, that I do mind a little. Their chances of going back to the wild, going back to their homes, rely on my attention to their needs and behaviors.
My enduring interest in animals and habitat loss led me to intern at the Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley over the summer, and it was there that I was lucky enough to meet those opossum joeys that defecated on my shoes whenever I picked them up forcing me to designate my favorite pair of shoes as animal hospital shoes, never to be worn elsewhere again.
It was there that a juvenile squirrel decided my finger looked fit to suckle, and that many an angry pigeon tried to peck off my hands. And yet, when the internship ended, I found myself hesitant to leave. It was from the sense of responsibility that I developed while working with orphaned and injured wildlife. After all, most of the animals are there because of us—the baby opossums and squirrels are there because we hit their mothers with our cars, raptors and coyotes end up there due to secondary rodenticide poisoning and illegal traps.
We are responsible for the damage, so I believe we are responsible for doing what we can to help. And of course, there is empathy—empathy for the animals who lost their mothers, their homes, their sight and smell, their ability to fly or swim. These are not jobs that can be avoided or left half-finished. For some, the Arctic is simply too far away, and the oceans will always teem with life, while for others these problems seem too great to ever conquer. And while I have had these same feelings many times over, I organized letter-writing campaigns, protested, and petitioned the oil companies to withdraw.
I campaigned in local parks to educate people on sustaining the seas. I hold on to the hope that persistent efforts will prevent further damage.
I sometimes wonder if my preoccupation with social and environmental causes just makes me feel less guilty. The upshot is that I simply cannot walk away from injustice, however uncomfortable it is to confront it. I choose to act, taking a stand and exposing the truth in the most effective manner that I think is possible.
Kardashian updates? Nope: A Word A Day. Out of the collection of diverse words I received, one word stuck out to me in particular. Entoptic : relating to images that originate within the eye as opposed to from light entering the eye.
Examples of entoptic phenomena: floaters, thread-like fragments that appear to float in front of the eye but are caused by matter within the eye. Flustered, I was attempting to evolve my abilities to learn to see the invisible. Between rubbing my eyes and squinting, I began to make out subtle specks in the air that drifted from place to place.