A Taste of The USA

By George Alwang'a.

Iam sure many of you have seen me and my teammates enviably geared up in a manner slightly reminiscent of roman centurions.

Ok, not exactly, but you have to stretch that image from Spartacus a bit. It's because our favorite sport- American Footballrequires us to gear up protectively. Locally, it remains a sport yet to be doused with the ashes of the limelight. Most Kenyans only know of the hulking Daniel Adongo, a former Kenyan rugby star who joined the Indianapolis colts as a linebacker. However, the game is already growing within local circuits, starting with the University of Nairobi.

For the past two years, my teammates and I have raked in countless grueling hours of American football practice at the University of Nairobi's rugby pitch. It's resulted in a gradual, progressive growth of skills and abilities in the game for my team mates and I. Commitment and passion have fuelled us through the difficult moments, injuries, and given us grit in the face of defeat. 14 months ago, I got spotted by a scout from Kenya Airways who connected me to Boeing commercial airplanes company who are the official sponsors of the NFL Seattle Seahawks team, the team that won the 2013 super bowl.

Our activities as a local American football team have attracted media attention. We have been featured on several TV news channels over the course of the last two years. In addition, we recorded practice sessions and uploaded the clips on YouTube. Well, this dalliance with the media and our own efforts promoting the game locally, paid off in terms of sponsors, and I got a fully paid trip in October 2014 to the USA for two weeks. It was an American football tour that enabled me to get a feel of the game in its own cradle. I attended several American football matches, met some of the NFL superstars I look up to, and trained with one of the college team. However, for me as a mechanical engineering student, the cherry on the pie was the visit to the Boeing airplanes manufacturing plant in Seattle and in Charleston, South Carolina.

The visit to the plants was made of the stuff you see in National geographic Mega Factories documentaries. It's engineering at its best. It's an utterly amazing sight to see how a behemoth like the Boeing Dreamliner is assembled and finished to conquer the skies. What are even more amazing are the technological barriers that are smashed in pursuit of this endeavor. Everything was first class all the way, from design, fabrication, transport, to assembly and electronics. Most engineers working in the Boeing plant were mechanical, electrical and civil & structural engineers. However, a plant requires wide array of professional input, and there were all sorts of engineering professionals working in the plant. Robotics, hydraulics, electronics, mechanical, and materials specialists are some of the few must haves in the plane building process.

This visit inspired me a lot, both as an engineering student and as an American football player. As a player, I got to see the kind of a futureI would love to see unfold for the game locally. Sold out stadiums, properly sponsored national teams, vibrant college and high school teams all over the country. Infusing the game with our local sports culture will be a big part of achieving this vision.

From an engineering perspective, I got a glimpse into how top, global engineering firms do massive engineering projects with the unbelievable precision and quality control. As a mechanical engineering student, interacting with some of Boeing's professionals raised the bar in every sense. It raised the bar in terms of professional diligence, knowledge, ethics, and interpersonal relations. These are core tenets of what makes world class engineers. Embrace them all.