Robyn's Experience From Working On Fusion Energy To Testing Humanoid Robotics

"I would love to be able to apply my knowledge to make our world a little more sustainable."

Robyn Xiong smiling

Robyn Xiong

Why did you want to study engineering?                   

There were a couple of different reasons. My brother did engineering, so I knew about it from him. But I also had a really good physics teacher in high school who was very inspiring and an advocate of lifelong learning in the sciences. 

I’ve always considered myself to be an inquisitive, hands-on learner, and I knew I wanted to work in industry. 

Questions about engineering

How did you decide on UBC?

I’m from Toronto, and I visited UBC when I was touring universities. I immediately felt like I belonged here. When I initially applied, I was also thinking I would end up in environmental engineering, and UBC has a great reputation in that field. 

Environmental engineering  UBC Vancouver Campus

How did you choose Mechanical Engineering? 

In first year, I realized I wanted something more broad than environmental engineering and that I could apply my interests in sustainability in other ways. 

Mechanical engineering was my top choice because I really liked working on physical, mechanical systems. 

My first year of studies also coincided with COVID, which meant that learning was happening online. I got involved in some design teams so I could connect with other people and learn a bit more than I would through classes alone. A lot of these teams are oriented to mechanical engineering and I found I really enjoyed the work.

In second year, mechanical engineering students take MECH 2. It’s a hands-on exploration of a lot of engineering principles. I quickly realized that I had chosen the right program for me. Being able to use machines to make things just felt right.

Design teams  Mechanical engineering  MECH 2

Why engineering is a versatile and future-proof degree

What are some of the highlights of your degree so far?

This might be an unusual answer, but one highlight is a course I took on engineering circuit design. Specifically, we had a lab on building a rectifier and cleaning up a noisy signal. Using a signal generator create an AC signal, we had to add components to the circuit to make it clearer and closer to the target DC voltage. 

It was an experience of slowly moving through different steps to get closer to something that made a lot of sense. 

I found it very rewarding, and I often see this course as an extrapolation of the kind of work and learning process that are typical in engineering.

Why engineering is one of the most rewarding careers

Tell us about your involvement with engineering design teams.

I was part two teams! I participated as a general member on UBC UAS, designing mechanical systems for a competition drone. I also eventually led a subteam on UBC AeroDesign, building remote-controlled, fixed-wing aircraft. It was my first time needing to manage the technical side of a project as well as a team of people. 

It was great to help others build their confidence working with their hands and was an excellent growth opportunity for me. I learned a lot about project and team management. 

UBC UAS  UBC AeroDesign

Any co-op or work experiences you’d like to share?

I did my first co-op term at General Fusion, a company trying to advance fusion energy, and I’m currently working with Sanctuary AI. The company’s been around since 2018 and they’re working on humanoid robotics. My specific role as a testing engineer has been to validate the systems and projects other engineering teams have come up with. The testing is an important part of the iterative design process, acting as a means to gauge real-life system performance. 

Among other things, the co-op position has affirmed how important communication is to the engineering process. You need to be able to clearly communicate with technical teams. 

Co-op  General Fusion  Sanctuary AI

Benefits of co-op

Do you have any thoughts on the impact you’d like to have in your career?

I would love to be able to apply my knowledge to make our world a little more sustainable. 

I also want to have a balanced life where I get meaning from my work as well as my hobbies! Using my skills to help an organization advance its goals is great, but I always look forward to coming home at the end of the work day to bake bread or do other things I love to do! 

Skills you need to succeed as an engineer

Anything else you want to share?

If you have any questions at all or need support, reach out to administrative staff and faculty. They are very positive and are dedicated to helping you out. 

In terms of inclusivity, mechanical engineering is still more of a male-dominated space than other disciplines. However, there is a lot of effort to make sure people feel heard and are comfortable, such as through groups like Women in Engineering or Gears and Queers

While there’s still work to do, a lot of people are working to make sure the spaces are inclusive and that you feel comfortable and welcomed. 

Women in Engineering  Gears and Queers


Two UBC mechanical engineering students prepare for the autonomous landing platform competition.

Mechanical Engineering

As a student in UBC’s Mechanical Engineering stream, you’ll begin by mastering the fundamentals, building a knowledge base in solid mechanics, fluid mechanics, dynamics, thermodynamics, vibrations, heat transfer, controls and design. As a student in UBC’s Mechanical Engineering stream, you’ll begin by mastering the fundamentals, building a knowledge base in solid mechanics, fluid mechanics, dynamics, thermodynamics, vibrations, heat transfer, controls and design.

Mechanical Engineering

Discover Student Experiences

UBC Applied Science students are people who are passionate about their chosen field — architecture, landscape architecture, community and regional planning, engineering and nursing — and those that inspire others by making meaningful contributions to the betterment of society.

Browse Student and Alumni Spotlights
UBC Crest The official logo of the University of British Columbia. Arrow An arrow indicating direction. Arrow in Circle An arrow indicating direction. Caret An arrowhead indicating direction. E-commerce Cart A shopping cart. Time A clock. Chats Two speech clouds. Facebook The logo for the Facebook social media service. Social Media The globe is the default icon for a social media platform. TikTok The logo for the TikTok social media platform. Calendar Location Home A house in silhouette. Information The letter 'i' in a circle. Instagram The logo for the Instagram social media service. Linkedin The logo for the LinkedIn social media service. Location Pin A map location pin. Mail An envelope. Telephone An antique telephone. Play A media play button. Search A magnifying glass. Arrow indicating share action A directional arrow. Speech Bubble A speech bubble. Star An outline of a star. Twitter The logo for the Twitter social media service. Urgent Message An exclamation mark in a speech bubble. User A silhouette of a person. Vimeo The logo for the Vimeo video sharing service. Youtube The logo for the YouTube video sharing service. Future of work A logo for the Future of Work category. Inclusive leadership A logo for the Inclusive leadership category. Planetary health A logo for the Planetary health category. Solutions for people A logo for the Solutions for people category. Thriving cities A logo for the Thriving cities category. University for future A logo for the University for future category.