An Ambitious Engineering Student: Angadbir Singh Sabherwal

by Carol Milano

Global Hesselbein Summit, for Worldwide Leadership Challenges. Photo Courtesy of University of Pittsburgh.

It may be hard for Singh Sabherwal to narrow down a career choice. The winner of ASME's 2015 New Faces of Engineering (College Edition) is majoring in Mechanical Engineering, Economics and Environmental Studies at Iowa State University. After graduating in 2016, he plans to work for several years, then pursue a M.S. degree.

With passions including sustainability, technology, mechanical engineering, and travel, "It's hard to commit to just one thing," he admits. "I want a career transcending boundaries, meeting and connecting people, using my skills to solve the world's problems."

Singh's always exploring possibilities. "I want to use mechanical engineering to build machines that help people, including sustainable designs and green machines," he explains. His Introduction to Mechanical Engineering Design class assignment was creating something to benefit a particular community in the developing world. "My team did research and discovered the 'trash mountain' in the Philippines. We developed a low-cost, efficient garbage shredder made of two rotating rods with blades." Singh would like to bring the shredder to the Philippines, but hasn't yet attained project funding. "I haven't given up hope," he confides. "I'll keep trying."


Shredder created by Singh and classmates for "Trash Mountain". Photo Courtesy of Angadbir Singh Sabherwal

Early Experiences

Singh speaks Hindi, German, English, French, Punjabi, and a little Mandarin. His hometown in India, Chandighar, is prosperous, yet he was always struck by the needs of the poor. "Distributing blankets to homeless people sleeping in the streets helped direct my life and direct my life, at age eight," he reflects. His environmental consciousness was clear by fourth grade, when he began paper recycling.

His challenges are constant. Despite being ineligible for 99% of scholarships, as an international student, he secured some funding for college. Choosing Iowa State University meant moving very far from his family, without any support system. "The challenge of living by myself, learning to understand different languages and cultures, and getting to know different people has shaped me. I'm lucky; my amazing parents, mentors and wide array of people in my network, help me so much by keeping me informed, in touch, and motivated."

That motivation brings ample recognition. Singh is honored to be part of the Global Education and Leadership Foundation Leaders Forum. "Getting selected though I attend a state university was hard – they choose mostly Ivy League students," he says. A Hesselbein Global Academy Scholar in 2014, and United Nations Youth Achiever in 2010, he's involved with Sankalp, an Iowa State volunteer organization that helps improve socio-economic conditions in impoverished areas. At Zhijiang University in China through a Study Abroad program, he studied Chinese Culture and Statics-Engineering Mechanics.

Singh receiving award at Presidents Awards ceremony, Iowa State University, April 2015. Photo Courtesy of Kyungjoon Chung (Iowa State University).

Recent Achievements

A Teaching Assistant in Iowa State's Manufacturing Lab in 2014, Singh was a Quality Engineering Intern at Van Gorp Corporation, and Project Engineering Intern at United States Gypsum (USG). "My internships have been wonderful, because of the people at work, especially my supportive supervisors -- they gave me the opportunity to work on very big projects -- like non-destructive pressure testing (NDT) and a paper-drying system, using ASME pressure vessel codes."

Brian Griffith, Van Gorp Quality Manager, says, "Singh's charisma and enthusiasm are contagious to everyone around him. He's an incredibly bright and driven man who is truly passionate about engineering, and about using engineering combined with his many considerable talents to make a difference in the world. He thrives on the opportunity that comes with new challenges and experiences."

His USG supervisor, engineering manager Chris Hansen, wrote in a reference letter, "You work never ceases to amaze me! You have taught me lessons with your desire to fully get to the bottom of a situation. Finding the missing chemical for the Tier II report, and your in-depth investigation into the NDT reports, is what sets your work apart from 99% of the rest of us. You don't settle for a simple answer without fully understanding the path that it took to get there."

For Singh, "Mechanical engineering is the most diverse skill set a person can acquire! The education brings a problem-solving thought process about dealing with all sorts of machines and technologies. That wide range -- including thermodynamics, energy, HVAC, manufacturing, technology, chemistry and construction -- is what makes it interesting."

With those varied abilities, he acknowledges, "There is so much to do in the world. For me, it's about building personal connections, touching the lives of people everywhere, looking at things differently, solving problems, working hard, fighting challenges, not giving up – and definitely having some fun!"