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Published: Monday, April 29, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Super Kid Sahida Badji has eye on engineering

  • Sahida Badji, a senior at Mariner High School, holds up part of the robot "Maximus" that she and her fellow teammates in the Sno-Isle TECH S...

    Mark Mulligan / The Herald

    Sahida Badji, a senior at Mariner High School, holds up part of the robot "Maximus" that she and her fellow teammates in the Sno-Isle TECH Skill Center robotics program built this year.

Sahida, as she's known by many, came to the United States at age 14 from her native Togo in west Africa and began at Mariner High School as a freshman. She speaks French (the official language of Togo), English and five African languages.
At Mariner, she's played basketball and participated in the French Club, Minority Achievers Program, Graduation Advisory Committee and National Honor Society, among other activities.
This year, her senior year, Sahida enrolled in the Robotics and Electronics program at Sno-Isle TECH Skills Center in Everett. Because of her mechanical aptitude and diligence, she was appointed the leader on the class project: to build a robot that can climb.
The Sno-Isle team, nicknamed FrostByte, entered its climbing robot last month in the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics competition in Seattle. The device successfully made its way to the top of a pyramid made of playrground-type bars.
After observing Sahida's work in class, Electroimpact of Mukilteo, an aerospace tooling and automation company, offered her a paid internship.
She was then selected by FIRST as one of two students from the Seattle area to travel to St. Louis last week with her instructor, Karen Coulombe, to participate in a competition that could result in a college scholarship offer.
Q: What was your life like in Togo?
A: My dad used to work at a bank and my mom was a secretary. I was in a middle-class family pretty much.
Q: Why did you come to America?
A: After my father died my mom decided to come to the United States so she could find a better life for me and my brother. So she left me back in Africa with my grandparents. So I spent five years with my grandparents, then I came to meet my mom here.
Q: How did you learn English?
A: I learned English from watching Sponge Bob Square Pants (laughs). I know it sounds crazy. When I first came I didn't know any English. So I decided, since I like cartoons … Sponge Bob was pretty easy for me because you could pick up stuff pretty easily, so that's how I started. I came in the summer so I had a little bit of time before I started school to learn English to adapt myself.
Q: You had a nickname in Togo, correct?
A: Yes, they called me "mechanicienne" in French, which is "mechanical girl" in English. We didn't have high definition, HD TV, we had mostly the older versions because our country's not as developed as the United States. So when the TV broke down, I was the one who always tried to make it work. Then, it was when something broke down, call the "mechanicienne."
Q: How did you start at the Sno-Isle TECH Skills Center class?
A: I like making things with my hands so this was a good class for me because it was a hands-on class. When I first came here I learned about the basics of electronics and I learned how to use basic equipment. I also learned how to build a circuit on a circuit board.
Q: So you already have an internship at Electroimpact?
A: Yes, the company has over 500 engineers, I'm working with them every day and assisting them with their projects.
Q: What do you want to do with your skills?
A: I want to be a mechanical engineer. At Electroimpact I work with mechanical engineers themselves and they give me assistance and knowledge and experience, so I know exactly what kind of career I'm getting myself into. The only thing I know is I want to be a mechanical engineer and I want to build stuff.

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