Some students think they have to wait until after graduation to make an impact on the world. However, that couldn’t be more untrue!

Haazem Turaani, Mechanical Engineering student at the University of Michigan, sets the perfect example of how innovative minds can seize opportunities that impact the world on a larger scale.

“I started paying attention to entrepreneurship around 2018 when I read a book called The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss,” said Haazem. “It made me think about starting my own business. I have never been fond of working 9-5, but I didn’t know how to escape that type of life.”

Prior to reading the book that inspired him, Haazem had already launched a venture of his own. In 2015, he and a friend decided to buy used damaged cars, fix them up, and sell them for a profit. 

This fascination with building things has always been a part of Haazem’s life. He’s had an innovative mind for as long as he can remember.

“I have always felt a natural inclination to hands-on sciences. Since I was a kid, I’ve been fascinated by cars and jet engines. I recall trying to build a replica of the Airbus A 380 using solder wires as the chassis and A-4 paper to make up the outer layer of the body. It was a huge failure, but it was a lot of fun.”

After reading The 4-Hour Workweek, Haazem felt a new hunger to start his own venture, but wasn’t sure where to start. 

“I read more self-development books such as Atomic Habits by James Clear, and Discourses and Selected Writings by Epictetus, and Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek. I would say the notion of entrepreneurship was always present in the back of my head, but I never took action nor did I know how.”

It wasn’t until Fall of 2021 that Haazem took a course that changed the trajectory of his entrepreneurial journey.

“During the Fall 2021 semester,  I needed one more credit to pump me up to the required amount of credits. I talked to my advisor from Mechanical Engineering,  Kristel Oelke, and she suggested that I take ENTR 407, Entrepreneurship Hour.

Entrepreneurship Hour, known affectionately as E-Hour, is a Ted Talk-style seminar course where successful entrepreneurs share their stories with students. As Haazem heard from more and more speakers, his hunger for his own venture grew. 

“It was very inspiring to see entrepreneurs who were where I am now just a few years ago achieving great successes in their careers. With every speaker I attended and every story I heard from them, I had this urge growing within me to start something, or maybe you can say to find what I am passionate about and chase it.”

The E-Hour course set off a chain of events that led to the most memorable summer of Haazeem’s life, starting with an email about a class called Innovation for Impact: Defense and Security.

“The name was exciting so I applied for it. As the saying goes, the rest is history.”

In Innovation for Impact: Defense and Security, students work on real-world problems for the Special Forces, Navy, and Air Force. A semester is given to develop a solution and MVP (Minimum Viable Product) and deliver it to the sponsored organization.

Letter and coin from NSIN for Haazem

During that class, instructor Todd Huber encouraged Haazem to apply for the 2022 National Security Innovation Network X-Force Summer Fellowship.

“My summer was straight out of a Hollywood movie. During the X-Force Fellowship, my team worked closely with the U.S. Air Force to improve the ACE (Agile Combat Deployment) doctrine.”

The team spent 8 days in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan attending the Northern Agility 22-1 exercise, where for the first time in U.S. history a full ICT (Integrated Combat Turns), which is the refueling and rearming of the jet fighter, was conducted on the M-28 highway.

“On the first day, we inspected the highway, which would be an active runway for nearly 7 hours. Throughout the next few days, we went to K.I. Sawyer Air Base where we interviewed Air Force civil engineers, firefighters, and pilots. We talked to different industry partners, startups, and many Air Force Innovation officers.”

With the Fall semester in full swing, Haazem is keeping just as busy as he was over the summer. While working towards his degree, he’s also started The University of Michigan Judo Sports Club and hopes to start his own podcast.

In terms of his future career, Haazem’s aspirations are sky-high.

“I hope to get a job that enables me to advance the exploration of the universe by sending faster spacecraft that can get further than what we have now, and aviation technology in austere environments that will have not only military implications but also will help deliver humanitarian aid and rescue in case of disasters.”

Haazem says the Center for Entrepreneurship was crucial in creating the experiences that sparked this drive to make an impact on the world.

“My whole summer would be different and I would not have experienced the X-Force Fellowship if it weren’t for the CFE.”

Curious about Innovation for Impact: Defense and Security? Check out the course description here.

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