Suwen Leong, who is studying for her Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) and Bachelor of Science at the University of Technology Sydney, spoke with create about her ideal job, the benefits of robotics and what drew her to a career in engineering.
create: What is the value of this engineering degree to you?
SUWEN LEONG: Undertaking this engineering degree really taught me how to troubleshoot; sometimes the answer is very straightforward, but you need to be able to figure out what it is. This degree has also opened up many opportunities like competing in RoboCup and networking with so many amazing people.
create: What would be your ideal job?
SL: I think being a freelance robot creator would be really cool. Getting contracted by different people or companies to make robots that solve their specific problems, will expand my perspective and bring new challenges with each commission. Otherwise, I would like to work in the development of nanorobots.
create: Who is one engineer you most admire and why?
SL: Nikola Tesla. He was extremely curious and would try new things. His curiosity led him to invent so many amazing things, some that we still use today. I think it’s important for all engineers to stay curious like Tesla to make sure that we are always advancing and not stagnating.
create: How can engineering benefit humankind?
SL: The reason engineering exists is to benefit humankind. Everything that is made is designed to solve some sort of problem and the more engineering develops the easier and more comfortable it will be for people to live.
One thing robotics will be able to help with is to improve the physical difficulties that humans face. Whether this is solving physical disabilities with prosthetics and exoskeletons, manual handling with logistics robots or even to do menial tasks like house chores.
create: Favourite subject in your engineering course?
SL: Sensors and controls. We learnt about all the different kinds of sensor inputs and how they are used in robotics to complete tasks. My favourite part was the final project where we had to use what we had learnt to make a real robot interact with its environment.
It was a lot of fun trying new approaches and actually applying the theory into practical applications. This subject made me more curious about using artificial intelligence for dynamic programming of robots, which is a very interesting field to keep an eye on.
create: What is the most important thing you will look for in an employer?
SL: Something I would look out for is a supportive environment, where I can grow my skills and have the support to try initiatives of my own. It would be ideal if it were a job that requires a new solution for every project, so I can continually challenge myself and always keep improving.
create: Are you active in any social or community cause through the university?
SL: I’m involved in several of the UTS Women in Engineering and IT school programs. They have these long-term programs where we go to primary schools and high schools and teach students how to use technology and code to solve problems.
I think it’s really important to expose students to the career possibilities in the field of STEM, so they are aware that there is more to STEM than just solving equations. The more people we have working in the field of STEM, the more ideas to keep advancing technology and society.