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Engineering bright futures

by Crystal Lamb | October 17, 2016

Hilary Luo is on her way to completing a dual degree in Engineering and Music – and readying a Mars Rover replica for competition, all while mentoring high school students in her spare time.

When Hilary Luo helped build her first robot as part of a high school competition, she says she “fell in love.” Now, she spends every spare moment she has mentoring young people and working with her team at Western as the mechanical design lead on “Dozer” – their Mars Rover.

Luo, who is also completing a degree in Music Performance and says at one point in her life she was singing in 12 choirs at the same time, chose Western because she was given the opportunity to complete a dual degree in Engineering and Music.

“I didn’t want to leave music behind,” said Luo, adding she only knows a few other students who have pursued this combination of degree in the past. “Engineering and Music are completely different but both so rewarding.” As a member of Western Engineering’s FIRST robotics club (WE FIRST) – the team that helped her when she was competing in high school – Luo mentors younger teams and provides expertise and support to high school students and teachers exploring robotics.

“It’s amazing to be able to see young people get interested and engaged in STEM and business,” said Luo, who just completed her fourth year in Mechatronics Systems Engineering and plans to pursue a career in industrial automation. “It’s also really cool to bring all the parts together to make something you can drive around and use to complete tasks.”

In addition to its community involvement, WE FIRST is also preparing to bring “Dozer” to compete in the University Rover Challenge in Utah in June 2017 and the European Rover Challenge in Poland in September 2017.

"Mentoring is important and we are very committed to that, but we also want to show what we can do as a team ourselves,” explained Luo, who estimates she spends more than 1,000 hours a year working with WE FIRST and is currently spending nearly every day focused on designing the rover. Once complete, “Dozer” will be able to complete a number of tasks, including soil sampling, coring, navigation, assistance and maintenance tasks.

“I’m grateful to have received donor support so I can give back to the community and take full advantage of these opportunities. What other time could I have the opportunity to design a Mars Rover like this?”

This article appeared in the 2016 edition of Western's Parent Connection
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