"Andrew has been an asset to our program from the moment he set foot on campus. He has shown a willingness to fill whatever role is best for the team and put in work outside of practice to improve as a player", Head Coach Ken Lovic observed. Lovic then stated, ". In my years working with the Georgia Tech program I get the wonderful opportunity to work with some amazingly talented and driven young men. Andrew is no exception. He is driven to excel on and off the field. As a team mate there is no denying his work ethic, He pushes himself and the guys around him to be their best. Off the field- Andrew is the same type of person. He represents the team and the school in nothing but a positive light. It makes my job a pleasure!".
We sat down with Andrew recently to discuss his experiences regarding his education to date at Georgia Tech and feelings about playing lacrosse for the Jackets.
Where are you from and how did you ultimately decide to attend Georgia Tech?
My parents immigrated from Beijing, did their graduate studies at CU Boulder and Colorado State University, and loved Colorado enough to raise a family there, so I grew up in Boulder, Colorado. My mom heavily emphasized being well rounded, so I played piano, went to Chinese school, was a part of chess club, sometimes drew pictures, in addition to playing a variety of sports playing including soccer, gymnastics, tennis, swimming, basketball, Track/Cross Country, and of course Lacrosse.
When it came to decide on where I would attend college, I sought out colleges whose environment would provide the opportunities that would enable me to excel in all aspects of my life, but I was primarily focused on academics, lacrosse, and new experiences. I was considering Georgia Tech, UC Berkeley, Cal Poly, Northeastern, and CU Boulder. In the end, Georgia Tech's #2 Undergraduate Mechanical Engineering Ranking, mostly engineering lacrosse team, and relatively less expensive out of state tuition was the best package deal for me and my family.
How did you select your Major and what are you thinking about doing in the future?
I am studying Mechanical Engineering because it provides a solid engineering foundation and its wide variety of applications ensures job security as well as limitless opportunity. Also, my parents both did their PhDs in Mechanical Engineering and that influenced me.
I don't have a definitive plan for what exactly I want to do in the future, however I think I have a general direction. I strongly believe climate change is the largest challenge my generation will face and we, as a global society, are vastly under-prepared for the rapidly increasing frequency and severity of natural disasters, shifting weather patterns, and ensuing climate refugee migration. I intend to dedicate my career to addressing climate change and feel there is variety of ways to address the problem. I also enjoy gaining valuable work experience to develop my technical capabilities and contribute to exciting projects like Mars 2020. In the long term, I think I would like to eventually try entrepreneurship and fund or create a company to address some of the global problems we'll face in the future.
You have obtained some great Internships and Co-op opportunities. Can you describe each one and what you learned in each from a career perspective?
Ecole Des Ponts Paris Tech - Paris, France – May to August 2016.
Salt caverns are created when we drill into salt domes, dissolve salt with hot water, then we repurpose that brine solution for fracking. These caverns will collapse unless a restorative force replaces the salt, so we store hydrocarbons like natural gas down there. My summer internship focused on simulating the damage accumulation in the salt cavern walls based off different cavern geometry, temperatures, cycling frequencies, and extraction rates.
From a career perspective, I learned firsthand how difficult and math-heavy research and academia can be. Scientific progress requires a great deal of patience, paper writing, and intellectual curiosity, and is not guaranteed to be implemented into industry.
Georgia Tech Research Institute Aerospace Transportation and Advanced Systems - Atlanta, GA -- January to May 2017.
My work was predominately focused on mechanical design for an environmental control system of a Department of Defense project.
GTRI provided a phenomenal opportunity to hone my CAD modeling and drawing skills, but I learned that I derive a lot of meaning from the underlying purpose behind my work and that I would prefer to be able to talk about my work openly.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory – Pasadena, CA -- May to December 2017.
I truly cherished my time at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). I worked predominately on Mars 2020, the follow up to the Curiosity Rover on Mars. I designed integration equipment for building the Rover's Corer, the drill that will be used to collect Martian samples and bring back to earth one day. I learned so much from the ownership over my work and the people at JPL were humble and diligent which created a unique high performance but relaxed work environment. Not to mention, the novelty of engineering the tools and instruments that expand the collective knowledge of humanity was endlessly thrilling! I was also lucky enough to meet with a variety of the executive senior leadership at JPL including Director Michael Watkins.
For more on Andrew's JPL experience read: From an interns eyes; Andrew Yi
My biggest career takeaway was that excellent results matter, failure from pushing the boundaries is still progress if you learn from it, and that I will be much happier when I find work that doesn't feel like work.
Tesla – Gigafactory in Spark, NV – May to August 2018/HQ in Palo Alto, CA – August to December 2018
During the summer I was with Drive Systems Manufacturing focused on ramping up Model 3 Stator (Rotating Magnetic Field generator in Electric Motors) production. I designed a variety of fixtures and tools to improve Overall Equipment Effectiveness and prototyped a new semi-auto machine with a vision system that addresses one of the largest reasons for scrapped stators. As part of the Battery Module Design Team this fall, I designed and installed 2 new manual stations for a temporary rework line, designed a manufacturing tool, and have been characterizing the thermal lag time in Tesla Battery Modules.
The extremely fast paced work culture at Tesla has been extremely exciting to learn from and be a part of, breaking new production records on a weekly basis and pushing to set new records each quarter is definitely different than the methodical do-it-once and do-it-right nature of JPL. I learned that different companies have unique goals which translates into their work environments and culture.
What do you think was the key factor in obtaining these opportunities?
I developed a future oriented mindset earlier than most kids my age thanks to my older sister, my parents, and the pipeline of overachieving kids from my community and high school. Starting early definitely helped, I began my summer internship search early during Thanksgiving Break of my freshman fall, got involved in Geo-Tech research my freshman spring semester which extended into a research internship at my professor's alma mater that miraculously was semi-applicable to JPL. I was very happy considering that JPL was 1 of 8 companies who responded of the 100+ companies I applied to my sophomore year over the fall and winter.
I think that being ambitious and not quitting despite not seeing the immediate fruits of my labor was key in capitalizing on the hidden opportunities when they arose. Persistence, patience, and a healthy dose of luck.
How can you describe your Lacrosse experience so far?
I have had a phenomenal experience with Georgia Tech Lacrosse. The competitiveness of the team provides a healthy outlet and break from the stresses that come with studying engineering at Georgia Tech. The time demand requires one to prioritize time management in order to succeed which has helped me accomplish more than I would have without the structure and learned self-discipline. I could not imagine my collegiate experience without it, in fact I have moved around multiple work terms specifically to come back for the spring to play lacrosse.
What is the best part about Georgia Tech and Lacrosse?
I think it's important to emphasize that top universities don't have a secret textbook or know about a secret equation that produces successful alumni, however they do provide unique environments and opportunities for students to succeed which is the best part of Georgia Tech! When I was a freshman and heard about older students working at Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, etc., I was shocked to learn that it's possible to work at these amazing companies during and right after college. I quickly learned that nearly all of my fellow students are extremely intelligent, diligent, and accustomed to succeeding which fosters a hyper competitive environment where individuals push themselves past what they thought was possible and achieve things that surprise even themselves. Georgia Tech has allowed me to be involved with everything that caught my eye, so I got involved with Greek Life, continued playing lacrosse, co-founded a green club, joined the robotics team, did research, worked abroad, and taken semesters off to work at cool companies. There are very few other schools where I would have been able to do all of this and I worked very hard to balance all of these involvements but am grateful to even have the opportunity to do so. On top of that, I am constantly surround by incredible people doing astonishing things which empowers me to do the same.
Sometimes the best things about something can also be the worst. While the abundance of talent and opportunity at Georgia Tech erased all my preconceived notions of what was attainable and pushed me to seek out and capitalize on the opportunities available, this same realization stressed me out a great deal since I saw other students my age doing better in classes and landing amazing internships before I did. The silver lining is that learning to deal with the waves of stress now, has and will continue to prepare me for the much more difficult problems I will encounter later on in life. This is where lacrosse comes into the picture because the best part about lacrosse is it's a total escape from whatever else is going on in your life at the time. I still get the opportunity to forget all of my troubles, suit up with my friends, and focus on getting better as a team. The practice schedule forces me to take a break and re-approach school problems from a fresh perspective. The coaches understand the difficulty of the school, respect your time, and make the most of it with competitive and fast paced practice. The hard work pays off in the spring when we win games and championships. Plus, the occasional away game is always a fun trip, for instance, I got to return to my hometown my sophomore spring and play against my high school club coach/CU Men's Lacrosse Head Coach, John Galvin, at CU Boulder.
What are your goals for this year on and off the field?
On the field, it's my senior season. My class went to the national final four our first two years and lost to Chapman on their home field twice, then lost in overtime on our home field last year. We're hopefully going to defeat Chapman on their home field, win our conference, and make another competitive run at Nationals.
Off the field, I want to take care of my grades, take care of myself, and learn more about entrepreneurship. I would like to spend some time and energy expanding an idea I have currently. I also hope to do some more exploring more of Atlanta. It's awfully easy to stay on campus all the time because it's convenient and there's always things to do, but I want to experience more of the city before I graduate.