Bayside engineering student participates in first VEX Robotics Competition for high schoolers in Taiwan

Photo courtesy of NYIT

Kayla Ho of Bayside loved learning about “how things work” even before she learned about engineering.

The New York Institute of Technology (NYIT) graduate student recalled her early years tinkering with household items in order to figure them out.

“Having learned what engineering is, I would say that my interests began at a very young age. I have always enjoyed learning about how things work. There were many casualties in my quest for knowledge — cassette players, CD players, old telephones, radios — some that never worked the same way once I ‘figured out’ how they worked. It was definitely a trying period, and I was redirected to making scale models and LEGOs,” Ho said.

It wasn’t until her senior year of high school at Townsend Harris High School in Flushing that Ho would learn more about the field, which solidified her interest in becoming an engineer.

“I took science research as a sophomore. In that class, we learned how to write papers, pick topics [and] do research, but the part I enjoyed most were the experiments,” she said. “Junior year I took physics and the circuits and electronics portion of the class just clicked. Then my senior year of high school, I took robotics class as an elective and I knew I had found my calling card — I wanted to be an engineer.”

Ho enrolled at NYIT and earned her Bachelor of Science in electrical and computer engineering and minors in mathematics and energy science, technology, and policy. After graduating in 2017, she continued her education at NYIT and is currently working on a masters in electrical and computer engineering which she is set to complete this year.

Last July, Ho and three of her classmates were presented with the opportunity to participate in the AI Taoyuan Taiwan International Robotics Tournament to run Taiwan’s inaugural VEX Robotics Competition for high schoolers. They were approached by Chien-Kuo Lee, a Taiwanese robotics professional and director of Happy Robots Studio and were officially invited to the tournament in August 2018.

She and her colleagues were responsible for judging the competition, organize and referee the tournament, do their own robotics demonstration and attend meetings and events. Ho recalls the preparation that went into the competition.

“We had conference calls with the organizers in Taiwan, set aside time for training, prepared meeting notes and presentations and of course [set aside] time to construct two well-functioning robots to bring to the event,” Ho said.

The three-day event featured thousands of participants from all ages showcasing their work in over 100 different robotics tournaments with specialties in aquatic, aerial and terrestrial robotics. The master’s student recalls the experience fondly.

“It was unlike anything I have ever experienced before; the level of energy, intellect and professionalism, in young students no less, was unparalleled,” she shared.

During her time at NYIT, Ho also became involved in the school’s branch of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the largest technical professional organization in the world. She joined the organization during her freshman year in order to be part of a professional engineers organization and become friends with students who shared her major.

She climbed the ranks from general member to treasurer and was eventually voted IEEE chair from 2015 to 2017. From 2017 to 2018, she was co-chair of the organization with a fellow student and was also the Regional Student Representative (RSR) for IEEE Region 1. As a graduate student, Ho said that she has taken on a more “advisory role” for the current members.

Under her leadership, NYIT’s IEEE chapter won several awards including Velio Marsocci Outstanding Student Branch Award for best student branch in Long Island and a bid to host the 2018 IEEE Northeastern U.S. Student Conference in March 2018.

“It was a privilege and an honor to have been a contributing member to all the awards our IEEE chapter won over the years. I had great role models, advisors, and mentors that helped guide me and my Executive Board (E-Board), but receiving the awards made me proud because all the students in the organization contributed towards our success,” Ho said.

After graduate school, Ho wants to pursue a Ph.D. in robotics engineering in order to “help develop the latest technology that can help society progress and advance.” She is currently working with her advisor on biomedical technology in the NYIT Clean Room “focusing on the fabrication of biosensors at the nanoscale level.”

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