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Vantage Student Check-in: Luke Lu on Building Robots, Drones and Learning in Kelowna

Growing up in Lianyungang, China, Luke always had a natural aptitude and interest in the field of engineering. Nowadays, Luke can be found assembling and programming drones in his spare time as he progresses through the second year of his Electrical Engineering degree. It comes as no surprise then, that his favorite superhero growing up was the engineer Tony Stark, aka Iron Man. Having started his Engineering degree in UBC’s Vantage One program, Luke is now in his second year. Not to shy away from extracurricular activities, he is currently part of the UBC Orbit Club; a group with the mission to design and launch a satellite. Read on to hear his story!

Q: What motivated you to choose UBC’s Vantage One program?

Vantage One is designed for international students, and I think it is a good platform for me to develop my academic English. In high school, we learnt English vocabulary through mere memorization. There was less application, but I think practice is important. A year of practice in the Vantage program actually made my English stronger, so it was a good decision. The immersion in the Canadian culture also had an impact on that.

This program worked well for me because we had  a lot of tutorials - in Vantage 140 (content and language enrichment tutorials), for example, we learnt new vocabulary there. I think the most important part of the program is the practical skills such as presentation skills, specifically. We have already done at least four oral presentations!

Q: What has been the most unique part of the Vantage One program for you?

A: When I compare my first and second year, I felt that the relationship between me and my professors  was closer when I was in the Vantage One program. In Vantage, the class sizes were small (we had only about 39 people in the class). The professor knew every single person, and I usually went to their office hours. But now in the second year, the experience is different. I really loved the small class sizes.

Q: Where is your favorite study spot on campus?

A: I like IKB (Irving K. Barber Learning Centre) very much, and if you are lucky, you can find some empty rooms to study there. Even if the private study rooms are full, you can still find a seat at the main hall. In my first year, I sometimes studied with my friends, which in my experience was more efficient. But I didn't continue this in my second year because I have a lot of lab work which requires us to work with our lab partners.

Q: If you had to eat one type of food for the rest of your life, what would it be?

A: Sweet and sour pork! It is the most popular option in the University Village.

Q. When you were little, who was your favorite superhero and why?

A: Because he is an engineer, it was Iron Man.

Q: If you had to choose between a year in Europe with a $2,000 USD/month stipend or 10 minutes on the moon, which would you choose?

A: Definitely 10 minutes on the moon! I can still travel to Europe later on in life. I can save money for this trip or I can get a job there, but the chance to go to the moon is quite rare.

Q: Where is your favorite place on campus to eat?

A: I would say the University Village. There are a lot of restaurants downstairs at the Village, and a lot of traditional Chinese food. It is cheap and also very delicious, and there happens to be a lot of choices of dishes. Some of the dishes are very traditional and taste authentic, but others are not, because some ingredients are hard to find here. For example, some beans are very common to see in China, but we don't have them here. Some ingredients can be found in the dining hall, but they are not in the Chinese style.

Q: What is your favorite hobby?

A: I enjoy building electrical things. It took me a long time to test and adjust my drone that I sourced the parts to build. I did this before the school year started. I learnt how to program the drone in my Vantage 151 class (where students work on an engineering design project), which was about programming a microchip. My dream is to build a human-like robot one day! I also like cooking, and I have a kitchen in my second-year residence. I like to play badminton as well.  

Q: You are in your second year now. What led to you declaring a specialization in Electrical Engineering?

A: At first, I chose Chemical-Biological Engineering, and then I transferred to Electrical Engineering. I preferred calculation, instead of memorization. After taking the first classes of the Chemical Engineering, I immediately felt that I didn’t belong to that major. The lab that I’m enrolled in right now requires me to build a microcomputer, which is really cool and I have been always dreamed of doing this. Very soon, I realized that Electrical Engineering was the right choice for me.

Q: Can you describe your typical day at the UBC? How is different from high school?

A: My schedule is quite jam packed. I have classes from 8AM to 12PM, then a lunch break, and classes from 1PM to 5PM. I usually quite busy on Mondays. Also I have to worry about deadlines, a lot of deadlines and labs. One of my courses has labs every week - each lab takes 20 hours to prepare, so I have to work during the weekend. My weekends are half occupied by the lab, and the other half is occupied by other assignments. But we have fun when we are doing the assignment and labs.

Compared to high school, I feel that university is less stressful. In university, there is no mandatory self-studying time set by the school. In high school, we were required to go to school on Saturdays and Sunday mornings. But in university, even though we still study on weekends, I enjoy the learning process since I like this major -- designing microchips or microcomputers. I found enjoyment through a natural passion I have for this major. And I don’t study all the time - I also go to the gym to work out!

Q: Is there anything  else that you want to tell us?

A: I studied in Kelowna this summer, and thanks to the small class sizes of Vantage College, I got a chance to talk to Dr. Taheri, who is a senior instructor in the Faculty of Engineering at the UBC Okanagan campus. I told him that I liked robots, and asked him for advice on the major that I should declare in my second year. He suggested that I visit him in his lab. When I visited this lab, the supervisor asked me: “Why not work in my lab?” I was really surprised to have been offered this opportunity. I said yes, and I ended up working there for two months!

When the time came for me to return to Vancouver to pursue a specialization in chemical-biological engineering, the supervisor said if I stayed in Kelowna, he would offer me a one-year employment. In the end I decided to leave the city, but later I transferred to electrical engineering. The Electrical Engineering program is also available at the Okanagan campus. If I have a second chance, I would have chosen to stay in Kelowna to complete my degree there.

I really liked the campus in Kelowna. During the time there, I didn’t have to travel long distances to go to class. Lake Okanagan is beautiful, and the ice cream there is great! It was in the Okanagan where I ate tacos for the first time.