All my friends are STEM: International computer science student finds his niche

The first day of the fall 2018 semester was the day Nnamdi Monwe became a Warrior — but he might have been destined to be one all along.

“I’ve always known I wanted to move to the states,” said Monwe. “In terms of STEM, it’s big in Canada, but not as big as it is over here.”

 

Nnamdi Monwe is an international computer science student at the Wayne State University College of Engineering. As the son of two parents in STEM careers, deciding to attend an engineering college was a no-brainer.

“I was always tinkering: I would take apart my toys and my siblings’ toys, get the guts, and try to make something new out of them,” said Monwe. “As I got older, I started picking up new skills. I learned how to weld. I learned how to code and do electrical work. I started to look into physics. The older I got, the more in depth I would try to get with these skills.”

Monwe was born in Nigeria and moved to the Toronto suburbs with his parents when he was 11. After graduating from high school, he decided to get an apartment in downtown Toronto near the George Brown College of Applied Arts and Technology. Two years and one associate degree in electromechanical engineering later, Monwe was left wondering what was next.

“Initially I wanted to go to university straight away to get a four-year degree, but I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do,” he said. “So getting the associate degree was like a buffer period to take time out, figure out myself and get more acquainted with the career path I might go down in the future. It was kind of spontaneous.”

Once Monwe began to peruse universities, his aunt — a Detroit resident — suggested Wayne State. He promptly set up a visit and began browsing through the different programs, but it wasn’t mechanical engineering that sparked his interest.

“It had gotten to a point where I had reached my saturation in hardware. I was like, what’s going to be the next frontier for me? So, I looked out there, and I found the wonderful world of programming,” said Monwe. “I started out learning Java, which is a fairly difficult language. I was making mobile applications for Android phones and all sorts of devices, just on my own in my spare time. I didn’t have much of a social bearing, I would say. I was always either in front of a screen, or with some sort of tool in my hand. Pretty much all my friends are STEM.”

After visiting the WSU campus, everything began to fall into place. Monwe decided he would attend Wayne State as an international student and major in computer science to continue his engineering education; however, he still felt like something was missing. In his academic courses, Monwe was surrounded by motivated and eager engineers, much like himself. He wanted a way they could all interact, collaborate and build something together.

“That was the thing that stuck out to me when I visited. There’s a lot of talent here. There’s a lot of people who are willing to do stuff here. It’s not like a lot of places I’ve been where people are very reserved,” he said. “People are very proactive here in Detroit, so I wanted to take that proactive spirit and combine it with technology.”

While perusing the college’s list of existing student organizations, something caught Monwe’s eye: The university’s robotics team, known as Wayne Robotics, had ceased to exist after 2010. To Monwe, this was an exciting opportunity. Within a week, he was recruiting members, drafting club objectives and meeting with the dean of the college. By the end of the semester, the Wayne Robotics Club (WRC) was officially recognized as a student organization once again.

“I got a small group of individuals together and discussed the idea with them. There’s some other really hands-on student organizations here on campus, and I met up with their presidents to see if anyone would be interested in making the club. We had students of all disciplines come to the information session we were holding, and I was honestly expecting two people to show up. We had booked this little room in the Student Center, but 50 people came out,” said Monwe. “People wanted it.”

Since the club was established, the 28 active members were split into three divisions: electrical, mechanical and software. Students are able to choose whichever division of the building process interests them most, even if it’s opposite their major.

“On the mechanical engineering team, we have some electrical engineers. On the electrical team, we have biomedical engineers. For the software team, we have both undergraduate and graduate students of different disciplines as well,” said Monwe. “That was one of my objectives for the club — we wanted to get people from different sectors coming together.”

Forming the WRC as a freshman means that Monwe has years of robotics ahead of him. He has extensive plans for the club that include the involvement of corporate sponsors. He also plans to integrate community outreach, and ensures that all of the club’s research and methodology will be made public for others to utilize.

In June, the 27th Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition will be held at Oakland University. WRC last participated in 2010, and nearly a decade later, Monwe is determined to get Wayne State back in the competition.

“People can get pretty mind-blown by how powerful their learnings are when they actually apply them,” he said.

For more information regarding WRC, contact President Nnamdi Monwe at NnamdiMonwe@wayne.edu.

The Office of International Programs is always interested in hearing from international students. If you are an international student, we want to know your story! Email Carol Baldwin, communications coordinator for OIP, at carol.baldwin@wayne.edu and tell her about your experience.

 

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