Photography by Eric J.W. Li
Amine Doulfikar is a powerhouse. The fourth-year BCIT electrical engineering student actively leads two clubs, teaches mixed martial arts (MMA) and professionally competes in MMA tournaments outside of academia. The Moroccan-born Canadian not only balances it all, but he also excels.
In Morocco, seven-year-old Amine was deemed responsible for all of the family computer’s electronic repairs. This carried on when they moved to Canada. When the time came to apply for university, he pursued his passions for electronics at BCIT.
During his studies, Doulfikar picked a CubeSat—a small satellite—for his senior capstone project. CubeSat experience wasn’t offered at BCIT and he was recommended to look to the UBC Orbit team. After earning his spot amongst 61 students on the team, Doulfikar became the only non-UBC student. It was around that time he joined the BCIT Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) club, and would later become the chair.
The club’s mission is to enhance the undergraduate experience of students. They run competitions tours, workshops, and more. The competitions consist of BCIT, UBC, SFU, and some KPU students, giving them all chances to apply their skills.
After one year on the UBC Orbit team, Doulfikar was promoted to Team Lead in the Electrical Power Systems (EPS) sub-team. He feels it’s a great way to represent BCIT. His responsibility on the EPS sub-team is to make sure the CubeSat always has power in space.
Satellite design and repair has been on his radar for a long time. Satellites have many different applications, such as providing Wi-Fi, or taking pictures of the Earth.
In 2018, Doulfikar won first place in the five-month long Canada-wide SEDS Young Space Entrepreneur (YSpacE) Competition. His presented his Space Science Applied Education (SSAE) business plan, which are hands-on projects to reignite interest students have for space and STEM.
“I went up against Masters’ and Ph.D. students from top schools in Canada, and came out first place. Many people told me don’t bother competing against those schools, especially since I’m not a business student,” says Doulfikar.
He adds that his passion for the industry increased his chances of winning. “I decided to go for it and really put in the amount of work and effort necessary to be a strong competitor.”
But it didn’t come easy.
“My partner backed out of the competition the day before the first submission of our business plan. My two options were to also give up on the competition or do his part and continue with the competition.”
Doulfikar’s ambition will carry him through his last year at BCIT and his grad school prospects. As for now, he highly recommends students apply to different clubs and see which one fits best for them. “There could be benefits to being part of those clubs that you may not see at the current moment,” he explains.
For example, one of the engineering clubs presented Doulfikar with the opportunity to take courses in Europe for free. Initially, he hesitated. It was nearly finals at BCIT, and students across the country were applying for the two student spots available—but he got in.
“I would also recommend students to search on their own time for courses in Europe or anywhere in the world. It’s a great experience to broaden your knowledge, meet like-minded people, and learn something new,” says Doulfikar.
Doulfikar has been teaching at Gibson MMA for seven years now. He teaches kids, teens, women, and adults in his classes, and finds it a great way to give back to the community. From his experience there, he “personally believes everyone should know some form of martial arts, specifically for self-defence. It’s also great to see people at the gym work hard and accomplish their fitness goals.”
He aspires to motivate students to go out of their comfort zones, get involved in different things, make new contacts and friends, and follow their passions.
What are the benefits of MMA?
I joined mixed martial arts just for self-defence. There’s a huge defence component to it. I find it a great way to join as a kid and grow up with mixed martial arts. Then, of course, there are the health aspects of it. If you’re doing sports and if you’re in it long enough and if you’re interested you can also compete, which I’m doing too.
Are you training for an upcoming competition?
I will most likely compete in the summer because of the school workload and everything I’m involved in. It gets tough to get ready for a fight or competition to get prepared. You need to do a lot of training.
Could you walk me through your training routine?
For a competition, I would try to train twice a day, morning and evening. You should be eating well, having good, healthy food. [You should be] working on your weak points, if you have any information on the opponents that you’ll be going [up] against. It’s always good to kind of know about him and learning what his good points are.
When the fight gets closer, if you have to cut weight, you might have to start drinking a bit more water and cutting other food out. Be healthy. Just train hard. When it’s time to compete, the main objective is for you to be confident in yourself.
Are you working with coaches or are you self-trained?
I work with coaches. I work with Lance Gibson Sr., his son, Junior, and his wife Julia Budd. I worked with all of them and other trainers at my gym. They’re really good coaches. I’ve been with them since I started mixed martial arts.
Is there another competition coming for the IEEE club as well?
We’re organizing a competition called “RC Classic” in January. We will start promoting it soon throughout BCIT, UBC, SFU, KPU, and hopefully, get other schools around Canada.
The students will have to design an RC car and bring it to the competition. We have different categories and they will compete. The top three teams will get awards. It’s an exciting event.
What would you advise for a person trying to improve academically but also balance everything?
I would say, look at your goals, where you want to head and kind of what kind of grades do you need to see. I would say time management is very critical. You put in the work that you have to put in for school. From my point of view, you can find time to socialize and have fun with your friends. But [if good grades] are your priority, you have to put in the time first there.
What made you decide to pursue electrical engineering?
Electrical engineering seemed to be interesting because I can design those electronics and solve problems. I love problem-solving and just coming to solutions with difficult problems.
What’s the biggest lesson that you have learned during your four years at BCIT?
Most programs are quite tough here. My view from the fourth year now is a bit different than the first year. In first-year, I was very focused academically to get into the degree program—you’re not in the degree program until the second year. Once I hit the second year and I made it into the degree program, then I said “Okay, academically, I’ll stay strong, but I want to get more involved.” That’s when I started looking at other programs. I would say try to get involved in the community. If you’re in the program that you’re in and you think you can manage your grades, try to get involved. Learn different things and experience different things.