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Honors student spotlight: Popy Aziz

January 29, 2016

Second-year Honors student Popy Aziz is a jack-of-all trades: robot designer, photographer, illustrator, and an avid reader to top it all off. Being the first member of her family to attend a four-year university, she joined the Honors College as a Detroit Urban Scholarship recipient with the goal of majoring in Computer Science.

Popy graduated from Detroit International Academy (DIA), an all-female public high school near Wayne State, after her family moved to Detroit from Bangledesh when she was 10. While she stated she didn’t have music, art, or journalism classes in high school, what was available to her planted the seeds for a lifelong passion: robotics. She joined the FIRST Robotics team her freshmen year and stayed with the program when it switched to and from BEST Robotics during her sophomore and junior year, and rejoined FIRST Robotics her senior year.

For her first-year Honors service project, Popy volunteered with the Michigan Engineering Zone (MEZ), who worked with eleven schools within DPS at its Ann Arbor location. MEZ provides resources, space, and materials for robotics teams to prepare for their FIRST Robotics Competition. She continues to mentor FIRST Robotics Competition teams, including the all-girls team from her alma mater. “I help them with different techniques, prototyping, (and) programming,” she said.

The teams have six weeks to prepare for a competition, so during the intense robot design and prototype season, Popy often spends every weeknight mentoring her team from DIA. Team building, along with creativity, technical knowledge and a competitive edge are part of what attracts students to compete in FIRST Robotics.

“It’s very intense, but it’s a lot of fun. I have learned a lot through that program and that is why I am in the College of Engineering majoring in Computer Science,” she said.

Juggling commitments is nothing new for Honors students. In addition to volunteering at MEZ, she also serves as a Peer Mentor for the Comerica Scholars Learning Community. She meets one-on-one with six students each week to help them navigate through their first academic year at WSU.  ‚Äč

Popy volunteers for the Muslim Inter-Scholastic Tournament (MIST), a program through Royal Oak based Michigan Muslim Community Council. MIST organizes local high-school student competitions that foster creativity, communication and encourage community leadership.

Even though she lives in Detroit, Popy still learns from the city-based Honors curriculum “I have lived in Detroit most of my life and I learned so much my first semester in the class HON 1000: The City. Additionally, my perspective of Detroit and its history became broader because of the Passport Events.”

“Wayne State gave me a place to belong,” she continued. “It has given me a broader perspective as to how students go about doing their things and how the city actually helps them with that. (There) has been a lot of learning here (at Wayne State) and I have opened up a lot. My high school was a small high school and I didn’t get that perspective of having different cultural backgrounds that we have (here).”

She credits her willingness to stay in Detroit and work for a city-based company on the experiences she has had as a member of the Honors College. Her long-term goal would be to create advanced technologies while working for one of the auto companies.

A new requirement of all Honors students is the creation of an e-Portfolio, a selected set of online, reflective and creative documents that provide evidence of students’ learning and growth as a scholar within their chosen discipline. Aziz’s e-Portfolio was so dynamic that the Honors College staff selected her page as an example for incoming freshmen to follow. To learn more about Popy and see her artwork, visit honors.wayne.edu and click on “e-Portfolio and Digital Exhibits.”

Her artwork will be on display at the Honors Art and Talent Showcase on Monday, March 28 from 6-7pm in the Student Center Ballroom.