The Banditrats, Semifinalist 2017
Sam Houston State University, BFA Computer Animation 2019
Emily was a part of the twin-sister duo, The Banditrats, during the 2017 SASEtank competition. She’s also a former Executive Board member of both the Texas A&M and University of Houston SASE chapters. When she’s not hanging out with her twin sister, she’s an engineer, a radio host, and an artist.

I actually went to Texas A&M (A&M) first and transferred to the University of Houston (UH) during my sophomore year. Last Fall, I transferred to Sam Houston Sate University (Sam). One of the reasons why I transferred so often is because I wanted to change majors. I started off studying Chemical Engineering at A&M and then switched to Computer Engineering at UH. Back then, I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do but I was gravitating towards animation. UH didn’t have that option, so I transferred to Sam. Next Spring, I’ll be graduating with a degree in Computer Animation!

Are you currently working anywhere?
I recently got a job at the Gaddis Geeslin Gallery (3G) at Sam. It’s nothing fancy -- I just help hang up the art -- but I appreciate it since I get to interact with my professors more. Also every Wednesday from 3-4 PM, I’m on 90.5 The Kat KSHU! It’s run entirely by Sam students, and it’s helped with my stutter a lot. For now, I just say the weather and advertisements, but I hope to get my own show one day.

Any other exciting projects coming your way?
So I found out just the other day that I’m going to be one of the lucky ones who get to create this big mosaic sculpture for Sam. It’s gonna be put in this new gazebo that’s in the middle of campus. We’re incorporating different elements of Sam’s traditions using stone, glass, and concrete. I’ve never really worked with these materials, so I’m excited to learn.

After all these jobs, where do you hope to finally end up?
My goal is to get a job at Walt Disney Animation or Pixar. I’ve actually already begun applying. I figured it won’t hurt to try, and if I get rejected, I can just keep on applying. Keeping my fingers crossed.

My first sales pitch was with InnoService. I completely regretted signing up for it at the beginning, but it quickly became a life-changing experience. When SASEtank was first advertised, people who knew I did the InnoService sales pitch actually went out of their way to encourage me to register for the new competition.

What about SASEtank first grabbed your attention?
Being completely honest, I first thought the money was really good. Then I saw it was another opportunity to practice speaking. InnoService showed me that speaking might be something I’m actually good at, and I wanted to do more of it. SASEtank was start of me exploring career options outside of Computer Engineering. I was doing small projects on the side anyways, so I figured I could just register for the competition with one of those.

Were you hesitant at all to compete?
100%. I was very hesitant. At first, I didn’t even consider doing it. But then I thought that I could sign up first and forfeit later. After I signed up though, the thought ran across my mind, “Oh, no. My name is on there, so I can’t drop out.”

Why were you so hesitant?
I’m very hesitant in everything I do. Usually the first thing I think is that I can’t do it. Knowing myself, I generally force myself to sign up if I’m interested and then research what I need to do to complete it. Also, I knew my parents would be upset that I was spending time on SASEtank when I could be using that energy on applying for internships.

Why did you end up registering for the competition?
I wanted to participate because I was studying Computer Engineering at the time. It was all book-based learning, and the only time I actually made things was in lab. The things we did were really simple though, like turning on a light, which was really boring. I saw SASEtank as an excuse to work on something that was more fun. The competition was really clear on deadlines, so I knew it would also force me to actually complete something on my own. 

What did you expect the competition would be like?
I was imagining something like Shark Tank where we would just practice public speaking. It was more of a challenge though, because you actually have to create something. You don’t see that side of the sales pitch on Shark Tank. I think it’s actually better that way, because the competition forces us to learn new things about business strategy and product development.

What problem were you trying solve?
Teslatoy was a game gearedtoward younger children. When a kid has lazy eye, he has to train it by continuously reading a line or focusing on a dot. We wanted to make it more fun for them by combining sound with light, since a 2-D object can be very boring.

Why did you choose to tackle this problem?
My twin sister, Sherry, actually has lazy eye. When we were little, it was really annoying because I had to sit with her during her lazy eye trainings. (Everything had to be “fair” since we’re identical twins.) We had to do it every day for two hours, and Sherry hated it so much.

What were some of the challenges you faced during the competition?
Making time for it, especially during school. You think you’ll focus on your exams first and work on the project later, but something always comes up and it’s easy for you to keep pushing the project back. To counteract that, we made a spreadsheet listing out the deadlines and color-coding tasks by urgency. We broke down our goals into smaller steps to trick our brain from getting overwhelmed.

Any other challenges?
We felt really intimidated when we saw that some of the Semifinalists already had things like Facebook pages for their product. As soon as they were announced, Sherry called me and said “I think we’re fucked.” She even asked if she could take her name off of the project, and I was like “No way, our last name is on there!” We ended up backing out towards the end of the Semifinal round. I actually cried that night because I was so upset at myself for giving up.

What went easier than you expected?
We thought we were going to feel distant from the competition since it’s mostly virtual. The deadline reminders helped a lot, and it turned out that talking to the SASEtank team was a lot easier. We should’ve reached out with questions more and used that to our potential.

How has participating in SASEtank impacted your personal growth?
Beforehand, I didn’t even think I could create something on my own. SASEtank made me realize that if I put my mind to something, I can create it. Through the competition, I’ve learned that I’m pretty decent at coming up with a solution for a problem. I’ve also improved my time management skills and gained the confidence to take more risks.

How has the competition impacted your academic growth?
SASEtank helped me get into the mindset of finding an answer on my own, rather than going straight to the professor. When you do your own research, you learn a lot more since you have to do a lot of reading and analysis to find the answer. You can’t always get the answer you’re looking for from someone; you have to become an independent learner to succeed even outside of the competition.
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Would you compete again?
I actually thought about it a lot and am considering it. I have regrets on quitting so early, so if I register this time, I don’t want to give up. I think this is a great opportunity for me to challenge myself to develop an actual product, even if it’s not the best. In my mind, I’m competing with myself, and I can’t get worse than before -- I can only improve.

What kind of people do you think SASEtank is best suited for?
From a skillset standpoint, energetic people would be great. However I think the main people who should compete are those who have an idea, are slightly awkward and may not be the best public speaker. We live in an extroverted world, so people think that those who speak the most are the ones who succeed. What you really need to do is speak the right words that impact people the most.

Would you recommend SASEtank to others?
Definitely, 100%. There’s nothing to lose. Worse case, you drop out of the competition but that’s on you. There’s also no pressure since you can work at your own pace. I get that people don’t want to end up getting disqualified or lose during the Final Round. But at one point in your life, you’re going to lose, and SASEtank is a great low-risk place to potentially do so.

If you could go back, what would you do differently?
I wouldn’t have given up so easily. If I had better time management and talked to my professors more, I could’ve actually completed the actual prototype. I learned that you need allow buffer in your schedule for potential failure. I also would’ve told my parents about this. They would’ve been upset knowing I was competing, but I also think they would’ve been upset that I didn’t tell them I made it to the Semifinals. This is something I’m really proud about, and I wish I had told them from the beginning.

If someone was interested in participating, but they didn’t think their idea was “good enough”, what would you say?
List out what you’re passionate about; you want to pick a problem you know you’ll be happy working on for months. Sherry and I actually stuck with problems we didn’t have to Google; these were the areas we knew we personally cared about. Also, be open to having bad ideas so that you can reject that part of the brainstorming. Pitch the idea to a few of your friends and see what they think. Most people in this boat are just afraid of rejection, so it’s easier to ask people you’re comfortable with first.

What would you say to someone who didn’t think they had the time to commit?
You have 24 hours in a day. You choose what you want to do with it. Most people blame it on school, but it’s usually just because they’re choosing not to make time for it.

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What advice would you give to future participants?
Try something new. Consider this a learning opportunity. Take the risk, and try something new. Don’t be embarrassed of your failures.

Any other thoughts? Have a positive mindset. If you’re working with a team and constantly saying something is bad, it transfers onto the rest of the members. It probably won’t work out the way you want it to in the beginning, and having an upbeat attitude dims problems a lot more than you think it will. Try to work with people who balance you out. Sometimes I would be working on something Sherry couldn’t help with, so she would get me food as moral support. If you have any questions, reach out to the SASEtank team because they’re really nice. And if you have any questions for me, feel free to ask!


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