Yaya Lu was 11-years-old when she approached her first mentor. “I called him up and said, ‘Graeme, if you teach me robotics engineering, our family will give you food.’”
Long-time family friend Dr Graeme Faulkner agreed to be Yaya’s mentor, and her family did indeed give him food – he is now their neighbour and has dinner with them every night.
Graeme and Yaya worked together on robotics engineering projects for a number of years, their kit of choice being LEGO Mindstorms NXT. Then a voice-controlled wheelchair she designed won her the prestigious Gold CREST award from CSIRO in 2012, and she presented a paper on the project at the 5th Biomedical Engineering International Conference in Bangkok, while she was still in Year 10.
“A lot of people thought I was a graduate!” says Yaya. In 2014, she was a state finalist in the Young Australian of the Year Awards, in recognition of her achievements.
Now studying software engineering at the ANU College of Engineering and Computer Science, Yaya is taking a break from robotics engineering to focus on human-centred computing – in other words, user experience. She recently completed an internship at Google in Sydney. “The best thing about the experience was how they treated us like actual employees,” she says. “We were treated with as much respect as a senior software developer.”
When she’s not studying, tutoring, or working on her extra-curricular activities and side projects, you can find Yaya playing piano and ukulele. “On Thursday nights my friends and I cook together, and I bring my ukulele and we sing along and have a good time.”
– Chloe Walker
Yaya’s path to becoming a robotics engineer
>> Bachelor of Software Engineering (Honours), ANU
>> Academic tutor, ANU
>> Software engineering intern, Google
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