Richard “Dick” Zhang, the first guest speaker to address our team this preseason, is rigorously qualified to be speaking about STEM education. A mechanical engineering major at the University of Pennsylvania, and a Montgomery High School graduate, his educational background is certainly notable. What is even more impressive, however, is his innovation, which is the primary reason he spoke to the team. He, along with two teammates, recently won the University of Pennsylvania’s Y-Prize, along with $5,000 and a free license to intellectual property. The Y-Prize is awarded to individuals who display the ability to apply technological advancements to business practices.
What they came up with is something to really behold- a defense-based application of robotics, which features an autonomous system controlling four quadrotors that accompany military vehicles. The robots are nicknamed “aerial roombas” –and aptly named, because these things are cool. The robots would use radar to detect underground improvised explosive devices (IEDs), which, according to recent statistics, cause over 61% of all American casualties in war zones. The system, called ADAPI, can be computer controlled, and thus not require manual operation. The team name of the group that created this concept was IDENTIFIED-which is now a company, with Richard Zhang as co-founder and CEO.
Richard ended his presentation by going over his reasons for picking his current career choice, and by giving advice to members of the team. A mechanical engineering major, he explained that engineering allows individuals to find solutions to the biggest problems that society faces (such as IEDs). He also discussed a different dynamic of his life-the choice to be an entrepreneur. Starting his own company came with many challenges, but it also came with a sense of individualism, and self-reliance. It also taught him a lesson about finding help. He told our members that it’s important to find help in mentors, and friends, and that the innovators of tomorrow need others to guide them towards making the advancements that propel the world forward.
Richard is also the Professional Development Committee Chair of the Theta Tau Professional Engineering Fraternity; this reflects his support of all fields of STEM (an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). The push to further education in these fields is representative of the need for American schools to teach their students how to succeed in an ever-changing world, how to better equip our militaries, and of course, how to make better robots.