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“Always have fun” — Tips on Succeeding in a STEM Competition According to a Past Participant

From overcoming design challenges to tips on succeeding — Hear directly from Jason Liu, a 2021 Wiz Prodigy Competition participant, as he shared insights and tips on his experiences with STEM competitions


The concept of an Online STEM Competition might sound abstract and foreign to some. However, it’s not as scary as you think! Online STEM Competitions create a valuable opportunity for students to learn new STEM skills at their own pace and also apply those skills for their own robotics creations.

As we begin to prep for the start of the 2022 Wiz Prodigy Online STEM Competition, I had an opportunity to sit down with Jason Liu, a 2021 Wiz Prodigy Competition participant to chat about his STEM journey and his experiences with STEM competitions.


INTRO

Q: Jason, thank you for joining us! Could you please tell me a bit more about yourself and your STEM journey so far?

My name is Jason Liu and I’m currently a sophomore in high school. I came to Wiz Robotics as a student about a year ago and was introduced to the Arduino kit. I would say that was how I started getting into STEM.

At Wiz, my first competition was the Wiz Summer Innovator Challenge. I enjoyed it a lot and decided to challenge myself so I participated in the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) in a team with a few other students.

Pictured above: robot created by Jason’s team for the FTC

The Wiz Prodigy Competition

Q: I see that you are no stranger to STEM competitions at this point. What made you decide to compete in the 2021 Wiz Prodigy Competition?

To be honest, I was hesitant about joining at first mostly because of the age group since I was only a freshman at the time. I wasn’t sure if I was ready to compete against high school students a lot older than I was. However, one of my friends was already in the Wiz Prodigy Competition and he asked me for help with his Cybertruck.

As I was getting myself familiar with the competition, Jack suggested that I should enter the competition for myself and make my own Cybertruck. That’s how I ended up participating on my own and I was very grateful to be able to join because it turned out to be a really good experience that was worth my time.

Pictured above: Jason Liu

Q: I’m glad to hear that you had a great experience at the 2021 Competition! Tell me more about your Cybertruck!

I have to say it was a very long design process.

At first, I created a design with cardboard cutout that was way too small and the circuit wouldn’t be able to fit inside. I was sad that it didn’t work as I had already spent a week on this version.

I started on my second iteration. I made it large enough that it fitted all of the electrical circuits and components. The sizing was correct but as I got to the design aspect of the cybertruck, I realized that using the aluminum foil didn’t look good. That’s when I decided to spray paint. So yes — I learned how to spray paint while working on my cybertruck! I did it all by myself.

Q: That’s very impressive. Good for you! What were some other roadblocks you faced in the process?

Sizing was definitely the biggest problem I had. I needed a solution that would help me fit all the components in the chassis.

My second iteration actually didn’t work out as I wanted at first because it still wasn’t large enough. I actually considered a third iteration that was going to be even larger. Then I came up with the approach of having multiple floors and it solved the problem! On the first floor, I had all the electrical controlling the wheels of my cybertruck and on the second floor I had all the sensors.

The fitting of the battery was another issue I had because I wanted my cybertruck to be compact so it’s unique. The battery was almost the width of the cybertruck. I thought of an openable compartment design that would fit the battery and also have the ability to change the battery if I need to.

(Check out the video below of Jason talking about his Cybertruck!)

Q: That’s super clever of you. Where did you get the inspiration for your solutions to those challenges?

During my first FTC, we had an elevator compartment inside our robot. As I was thinking about that experience, I thought about elevators which then led me to think about floors. What if I did a similar elevator approach but without the actual “elevator” and just have different floors and compartments? That’s how I came up with the design for my cybertruck.

Q: Nice! You were able to take inspiration from your previous experiences and apply it to adapt to your new design. That’s definitely what we like to see in all our students.

What was your favourite and least favourite part about the competition?

I loved that I was able to do something that made me happy. It was very fun to be able to build something and combine past experiences in a competitive environment. I also learned a lot of new things such as spray painting!

I have to say that the Arduino part was kind of hard. However it was fun learning about it and overcoming the challenge.

Looking Forward

Q: Do you plan to work in STEM in the future?

I’m not sure yet. But I do know that I don’t want to be a lawyer (sorry lawyers!). I would like to explore more in STEM.

Q: Yes definitely! Take the time to explore your interests. Anything interesting you are working on right now?

Right now I’m learning how to program in java because I heard that it’s a good foundation to have if I want to learn more programming languages. I think for now that’s the direction I’m exploring.

Q: Any advice for 2022 Wiz Prodigy participants or STEM students in general?

You should always have fun and do the things you enjoy doing!

Thank you so much Jason for sharing your experiences and insights! Best of luck with your future endeavours!


I had a great time chatting with Jason and it was very inspiring to hear about his journey not only as a STEM student but also his experiences with the 2021 Wiz Prodigy Online STEM Competition.

Here are some key takeaways I had gathered from our conversation that could be helpful for any student:

  • Don’t give up when faced with challenges! Turn those challenges into opportunities for innovation
  • Find something that you enjoy doing and keep on doing it. It’s very important to always have fun.
  • Learn from your past experiences and apply it in new ways!

There’s still time to register for the 2022 Wiz Prodigy Online STEM Competition!

This year’s competition theme will be around the space rover and space exploration. Each individual or team registration will come with an at-home robotics kit accompanied by the Wiz online learning platform so you can learn to code and build your rover from scratch.

You can learn more about the 2022 Wiz Prodigy Online STEM Competition directly on the website. Be sure to also check out the amazing Cybertruck creations from the 2021 Wiz Prodigy Competition!

Photo by NASA on Unsplash

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