Leadership, diplomacy and verbal dexterity—these are the qualities embodied by the students who are selected for the FIRST Tech Challenge Dean’s List Award, the same qualities embodied by St. Margaret’s students and Dean’s List finalist Ines Khouider.

The Grade 10 student was nominated by her FIRST Tech Challenge robotics team members and their coach for the prestigious award which recognizes leaders from across North America who participate in fundraising, outreach, and spreading the word about FIRST; all the while excelling in school and other extracurricular endeavours. As part of the award submission, Ines was required to write an essay and complete an interview, which moved her on to the finalists’ pool which was announced at the State/Regional Championship Tournament held in Washington State on March 17, 2019.

In an effort to recognize the leadership and dedication of FIRST’s most outstanding students, an award is given out to selected students known as the FIRST Dean’s List. Since its introduction in 2010, the FIRST Dean’s List award has attracted the attention of prestigious colleges and universities eager to recruit FIRST Dean’s List students.

As a finalist, Ines was invited to attend the FIRST Championships in Houston, Texas, from April 17-20, 2019, to attend the Championship Conference and finalists’ luncheon. While she was not selected as an award winner, just to be a finalist among thousands of nominees is an outstanding accomplishment.

“The award goes to someone who shows a lot of leadership, and this year I was the only returning member of my team, so I took on a leadership role as the main programmer and I did a lot of teaching,” said Ines.

“One of the core values of the program is gracious professionalism. We try to compete at the best of our abilities but not at the expense of others. It’s a very nurturing environment and it’s become an important core value in my life to help people become the best that they can be. I’m glad that I get the opportunity to help others, and see others do their best.”

The Dean’s List Award also receives support from some of the most prestigious colleges including Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), and Yale, who have been proud supporters of the award, and look forward to seeing Dean’s List applicants each year.

“The heads of admissions from MIT and Yale spoke at our luncheon. It was pretty neat, and the head of admissions from Yale said that eight out of nine Dean’s List finalists who applied to Yale got in—they look for students with robotics and programming backgrounds,” she said.

While in Houston with her coach, Ines took every opportunity to have new experiences. She volunteered as an ambassador and gave tours to parents, families and dignitaries. She participated in workshops, explored image and data analysis, and attended an innovation fair and a university fair.

“The innovation fair was really cool, there were a bunch of companies like NASA (the conference sponsor) as well as Disney, and Boeing. We had the chance to see some of the newest technologies and inventions created by amazing people like the Disney Imagineers.”

Ines, who has a passion for engineering and robotics, notes that she may not have discovered these interests without the guidance of SMS teachers and learning in an environment where students are excited about the same things she is.

“I’m really into STEM and robotics has really helped me. I don’t know if I would have had the chance to do all these things if I hadn’t come to SMS where I gained an interest and a passion by joining First Lego League.” “It’s because of teachers like Mrs. Hudson who introduced me to robotics, and all the amazing teachers I’ve had, that I’ve been able to gain these experiences which I’m grateful for.”

This summer she plans to learn more advanced programming, image analysis, robotics and work with the FIRST Tech Challenge club doing outreach, workshops and participating in FIRST Global.

As for her future, that’s still up in the air, but attending an Ivy League school is definitely something Ines wants to explore!