Student life can be hectic but can you imagine being a student and starting your side hustle at the same time? It may seem tough but this is what the folks at GUC Innovators did by building an electric vehicle.
A team composed of 50 students from the German University in Cairo came together two years ago. Their dream was to build an electric vehicle fully manufactured in the Middle East and North African (MENA) region.
We spoke to Mohamed Ehab – one of the co-founders –. He is currently working as a Computer Vision and Robotics Engineer for Radii Robotics in Los Angeles. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mechatronics. GUC Innovators has students from different backgrounds: Engineering, Management, Applied Arts and more.
“Our initiative aims to build the first electric vehicle fully manufactured in MENA region” Says Mohamed
These students managed to defy all odds. With so little funding and experience, their main goal was to come up with a national product that can compete internationally. They competed in the “Shell Eco-Marathon”. It is an annual competition sponsored by Shell and one of the top competitions in the world for energy efficient electric vehicle.
Despite all the obstacles, they managed not only to take part in the competition but also to win second place of the safety award in the Shell Eco-Marathon Asia competition 2018 that took place in Singapore because of their advanced innovative safety system.
Their current goal is to compete for the top 8 places this year in Shell Eco-Marathon 2019 which will be held this April in Malaysia. As this will qualify them for more advanced categories and competence.
For their long-term plan, GUC Innovators are dreaming of building an autonomous self-driving electric vehicle. In order to start competing in the autonomous category of the competition in 2020. Moreover, being one of the biggest hubs for the autonomous and electric vehicles in the MENA region.
They focus on the quality and efficiency of their product. The main motive towards their success was their long-term vision and the team’s passion for their project. In addition, their values focus on inspiring youth and students in the whole region who are passionate about technology and electric vehicles.
Finding the balance
What started off as a student activity in a university grew into something bigger. Starting their own initiative while studying was a turning point in these students’ lives. Mohamed explains the difficulties they faced to balance between academia and their side hustle: “To start leading a team of students and to manufacture an electric vehicle from scratch with zero budget and zero experience and knowledge of the process, was a huge challenge”.
“We suffered throughout the process and had many hard times. The key to survival was our unique will and determination towards our dream. But at the end of the day the outcome was worth all the sleepless nights and countless hours of working. Representing my country in Singapore and receiving the trophies was an unbelievable and indescribable feeling”.
Their tech and non-tech knowledge drastically changed after joining this team. “The experience is one of the greatest things that happened in my life and for the rest of the team as well,” he adds.
“We make sure that all team members have an exponential learning curve that qualify him/her after the graduation to easily join the industry,” says Mohamed.
Their advice to Electric Vehicle and Technology Enthusiasts
Mohamed explained: “My educational background is Mechatronics, this means that I learnt mechanics, electronics, programming and systems control. My current job is based on the knowledge I acquired of robotics, control and of course programming. Therefore, my background helped me kick-start my career in advanced Drones industry”. As a student he was passionate about technology-related topics and the latest trends in the industry. He made sure to follow technological and engineering channels on social media.
His advice to fresh grads and university students is to be updated with all the new innovations and techniques in the field that they want to pursue, to be well informed when they kick-start their career. In addition, being eager and thriving to attain more knowledge about the field you’re passionate about is crucial. Keep developing and acquiring more skills. Above all, don’t shy out from joining student activities and startups, as this will give you the opportunity to gain soft skills. You will come to appreciate those skills once you graduate and when you’re involved in the job market.
Creating an online identity: A turning point
While having a solid presence on social media channels, in October 2017 GUC innovators launched their website using GoDaddy’s Website Builder. “We chose GoDaddy based on our friends’ recommendations and after a lot of research. We settled on using GoDaddy’s Website Builder to launch our website and to reserve our domain name.
They’re considered a non-profit organization so, it wasn’t expected of them to have a website. But, building one had a great impact on the funding of their products, as they were presented as professionals. They used the website to advertise for several events, recruitment announcements, sending out newsletters, posting updates about the team and so much more. The team members are constantly updating the website with more pages, news and announcements.
GUC innovators perceive websites as “one of the most powerful and professional channels”. It presents their products and services to reach more customers, audience and investors.
The GUC innovators don’t identify their initiative as a student activity anymore. They believe that one day their initiative will contribute to the economic and technological revolution in the region by creating new channels and communities for manufacturing electrical vehicles in the MENA region.