Each year the seven departments of the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, and the school as a whole, bestow honors on top graduates and those students made special contributions during their collegiate careers. Below are profiles of a few of this year’s school-wide winners, including Michael J. Wu, winner of the Outstanding Bachelor of Science Award winner; Gregory Caguimbal, the Student Commencement Speaker.
Michael J. Wu, B.S. Mechanical Engineering
What was your favorite class at UCLA and why?
The first class that allowed me to study machinery was Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering 162A, Introduction to Mechanisms and Mechanical Systems, with Professor Jonathan Hopkins. We learned to analyze the kinematics, dynamics, and mechanical advantages of linkages and gears, as well as how to synthesize mechanical systems.
I have always been curious as to how machines work, so learning about degrees of freedom and how links move in specific patterns made me immediately fall in love with robotics and mechanisms. I believe robotics has the potential to improve the world, from building unmanned aerial vehicles that protect our country to developing exoskeletons for patients who lack mobility.
What’s next for you after graduation?
When I started here at UCLA, I was not sure if I was going to attend graduate school or begin working full-time after I complete my bachelor’s degree. However, my research project allowed me to explore concepts far beyond the complexity of my undergraduate curriculum and inspired me to further my education.
I will be attending UC Berkeley to pursue a master of engineering in mechanical engineering, with a concentration in product design. The program teaches us how to design, prototype, and market new products to meet industry demand. I want to explore a variety of hands-on classes that traditional Master of Science programs do not offer, while becoming an expert in robotics and mechanisms so I can help develop cutting-edge technologies.
After I complete my master’s degree next May, I will begin full-time employment for the Space and Missile Systems Center at the Los Angeles Air Force Base.
What was the research project?
Under the guidance of Professor Ajit Mal, I was the project lead for a joint research effort between the Aerospace Corporation and UCLA to investigate impact damage on 3-D fiber reinforced foam core composite sandwich structures.
Your favorite UCLA memory?
As an executive board member of Bruin Scouts for three years, I helped plan our annual “College Day,” where we invited over 150 under-served scouts to UCLA, hosted several college-readiness workshops, and provided a tour of our beautiful campus. At College Day, I taught a workshop about searching, planning, and executing service projects to help the scouts earn their Eagle or Gold Award and improve their chances of getting into college. I am so grateful to have been able to give back to the scouting community while forming lifelong bonds with the members of Bruin Scouts.
Were you a part of any other clubs or student organizations?
In addition to Bruin Scouts, I visited a local elementary school as a distinguished member of Tau Beta Pi to provide interactive science lessons to underprivileged children in an afterschool program. The afterschool program provides a safe place for children to stay during the day when their parents are at work. The science lessons expose school children to engineering concepts and cultivate an interest in learning STEM topics. It was a pleasure watching the children have fun while experiencing hands-on engineering and I am glad that I had the opportunity to positively impact their education and future.
Finally, I wouldn’t be where I am today with the support and guidance of my fraternity. Delta Tau Delta provided me with a special brotherhood and I’ll never forget the memories I have with them.
Gregory Caguimbal, B.S. Mechanical Engineering
The student speaker represents all 2016 graduates at commencement and is selected through a competitive process. In August, Caguimbal will start at Lockheed Martin in Sunnyvale.
Can you say a little about your speech?
The main portion of my speech is about unicorns. Yes, I said unicorns. It’s tied into a good message, I promise. My main motivation of doing this speech is doing it for my family, as I am the first to go to and graduate from college. I come from a family of immigrants whose lives consisted of working in the fields or working in the fast-food industry. Their education was very limited due to the fact they had to sacrifice their education to support their family and did not have the financial means pursue higher education. They have been through a lot and I wanted to show them their sacrifices have culminated into something great. I think the best part is they don’t know I’m speaking, so it will be a nice surprise for them to see me graduate and be on stage speaking.
What was your favorite class and why?
I don’t have a specific favorite class, but I have favorite subjects: heat transfer, mass transfer, and fluids. I LOVE the math behind it and I had amazing professors: Professor (Webb) Marner and Professor (Jeff) Eldredge. Their passion for the subjects and awesome teaching made the classes very enjoyable for me.
You were part of Society of Latino Engineers and Scientists (SOLES) and the Center for Excellence in Engineering and Diversity (CEED). How did that enhance your experience at UCLA?
Both these organizations have allowed me travel all across the U.S., taught me how to be a better leader, how to network, and how to effectively present myself in front of professionals. I’ve made a lot of great friends because of these organizations and I would not have my job if it were not for them. I cannot thank them enough, specifically Dr. Audrey Pool O’Neal. She was a big reason why I stuck to mechanical engineering and that is something I can never pay back.
What sccholarships did you receive and how did they help?
I received quite of few scholarships from UCLA, the Chancellor’s Scholarship and Achievement Scholarship to name a few. But the big scholarship I received was the Gates Millennium Scholarship, and that scholarship can go beyond my undergraduate education and pay up to my PhD, if I choose to pursue one. These scholarships allotted me to further my education beyond high school and pursue something that I enjoy. I am very grateful for being able to go to school and graduate debt-free. My biggest worry about attending college was not being able to afford it and I didn’t want to burden my parents financially, so being in this circumstance I am very lucky.
You have some plans to give back yourself, yes?
I plan to co-found a STEM based organization at my old high school with my sister. She is in her third year at UC Davis, studying biochemistry and molecular biology. Our high school did not allow us many opportunities to branch out in STEM, and we want to create something that can help these future chemists, biologists, engineers, you name it. We both have experienced what STEM fields can offer and we want to share the awesomeness by reaching out to those kids that need that extra push. I also plan on growing out my scholarship foundation, the GAC Foundation, and plan on giving out multiple scholarships to my old high school as opposed to the single one I give currently.