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  • Writer's pictureAnderson Lam Wei Cheng

Carnegie Mellon University Application Personal Insight Statements

Most students choose their intended major or area of study based on a passion or inspiration that’s developed over time – what passion or inspiration led you to choose this area of study?

Growing up in Malaysia, my father ran an agricultural seed and farm chemical company. Our house was a safe space for all the farmers to share their experiences and hardships. I witnessed first-hand how expensive the machinery was and the physical and financial toll on the farmers when they couldn't even afford to fix broken sensors and electronic chips. Seeing all the agricultural problems makes me emotionally and psychologically prepared to be an engineer and solve these issues. A desire to help them has burned in me ever since. I started researching machinery, electronics, and feasibility for chip design and development.

My interest in engineering really solidified when I won my first robot in a lottery, a cleaning robot, and along with it, an immense motivation to further my knowledge in the engineering field. Strangely, I was very excited when the robot broke down after a couple of uses. The curious seed of electronics in me blossomed as I took it upon myself to fix the robot. With wires and parts and a screwdriver, the complexity of the relation between electronics and software astounded me. However, with so many attempts at repair, I finally burned its circuits, yet in the process, my desire to pursue Electrical and Computer Engineering had grown immensely.

My burning passion didn't fizzle out over time, I fostered it through an internship at Advansia Drone Co.Ltd, an agricultural drone company. It was there I had the opportunity to closely examine drones' electrical designs and artificial intelligence systems. My desire to combine cloud computing and artificial intelligence to enhance agricultural technology for the farmers back home has never faltered. Taking STEM classes has furthered my expertise in ECE, and I firmly believe that the world-class education at Carnegie Mellon University will help me achieve my dream.

Many students pursue college for a specific degree, career opportunity or personal goal. Whichever it may be, learning will be critical to achieve your ultimate goal. As you think ahead to the process of learning during your college years, how will you define a successful college experience?

Amid a confusing time of this global pandemic, I set out on my college journey. Navigating the road of an international student is always a little tricky; with minimal online resources at hand, persistence and tenacity were my tutors, and I adjusted to US education while sheltering in place. Able to find my footing, it struck me how many others were not as fortunate. Students shared with me ways they were struggling and I could not stop my heart's longing to aid them. Everyone should have equal access to education, and I knew I could form a community benefiting generations of students to come.

I created my own community where we spread the gratitude of what was given every day in our lives by sharing and supporting the communities that have been disadvantaged. I was given the opportunity to meet people locally and internationally with different cultural backgrounds, beliefs, experiences, and others, virtually through Zoom, which allows International Students Connection Club and VolunFlex to be a home away from home communities at college. We became our own support network and family for each other in such a common but unique place. We host weekly educational seminars, helping over three hundred students in Malaysian schools, and built a non-profit website Compidia where we share free programming tutorials, helping over five hundred students. It felt great helping so many, but more than that, we were proud to be part of a like-minded community, all striving to have a positive impact. I firmly believe building a strong-knit community is exactly what will get us through these challenging times even as a college student. Even small acts of kindness have profound impacts on people's lives and that is how I define a successful college experience - not only improving ourselves but helping others too.

Consider your application as a whole. What do you personally want to emphasize about your application for the admission committee's consideration? Highlight something that's important to you or something you haven't had a chance to share. Tell us, don't show us (no websites please).

Agriculture has always been synonymous with hope for me. While my peers viewed agriculture as unlucrative, I've made it my mission to empower the farmers back home in Malaysia through modern technology and principles.

Growing up, it pained me to watch the farmers of our community grow increasingly fatigued, their shoulders gradually drooping. Not only did they suffer physically, but they had to bear the mental stresses of frequent weather changes. Their techniques were ages behind modern global technology and new generations have grown reluctant to take up their vocation. While my desire to help the farmers has grown exponentially, anxiety at seeing this likely future outcome never released its hold.

When I started interning in an agricultural drone company, I grew familiar with the drones' components and construction, yet the complexity of the mechanical system turned my anxiety into a raging ache. In some of those moments, the longing for younger generations to take an interest in agriculture felt like nothing but false hope. Everything changed during one of our field trips as we delivered a drone to our client. As we explained its function, the client's children silently and quickly came over, fascinated by our demonstration of the drone’s flight modes. They were fascinated as they learned the capabilities of the drone to fertilize ten acres per hour, a rate more than doubles their usual expectation. I remembered my own experiences just a few years earlier, wholly fascinated with the machinery, concepts, and its benefits. I then knew the importance of my role, inspiring young generations to come back to the agricultural field. By investing in me, Carnegie Mellon University invests in the future of our global food supply, considering the nation of Malaysia is a net exporter for more than half of the world’s commonly-consumed agriculture products.

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