Building the next generation of engineers, one LEGO brick at a time

William Muir Edwards Citizenship Award winner helps nurture curiosity about engineering and technology among youth

Thien Nguyen - 28 May 2019

(Edmonton) Robots and LEGO bricks make a killer combination-one that can test hundreds of students learning about engineering and science while putting their problem-solving skills to the test.

From building robotics to mentoring youth using LEGO, UAlberta engineering student Alexander Wright is having an impact on the community with his education and LEGO creations.

Inspired by his grandfather to pursue engineering, Wright volunteers and mentors youth at the annual LEGO League Alberta competition, where he has served as a core-values and design judge for multiple competitions, helping to foster science, engineering and technology skills.

"I like being inspired by their creativity," he said. "The last competition in Edmonton, I was doing one of the more technical evaluations of the robots. And it was very unique use of a single part to make a whole system work significantly better and it really just caught you off guard, because you're like, who would've thought of that?"

In Wright's eyes, helping nurture an interest in engineering and technology among youth is most rewarding when the young competitors teach him.

"I'm often caught off guard and inspired by these students," he said. "I enjoy seeing how excited they get when things work and then when they do run into issues, how quickly they can problem solve and work together to modify and quickly fix any bugs or glitches and get it working as quickly as possible."

Wright is one of five engineering students to receive the inaugural William Muir Edwards Citizenship Award. Named in honour of the William Muir Edwards, one of the university's founding professors and its first engineering professor, the $10,000 award recognizes engineering students who are making a difference in the communities on campus and beyond.

Wright views engineering as an opportunity to investigate how things are built and how they interact with the world. Since enrolling into the mechanical engineering co-op program, he has completed a number of projects blending general sciences, mechanical engineering, and artificial intelligence into his learning and research.

His engineering education is a stepping stone to push his personal learning and to continue to uphold the legacy of the founding professor of the Faculty of Engineering, William Muir Edwards.

As a future engineer, he's proud and aware of the legacy in being both nominated for and awarded this scholarship. It is Wright's identification with Muir Edwards' commitment to a life in service of others that truly made this award meaningful.

"Professor William Muir Edwards exemplified the true work of an engineer whereby we have the unique opportunities to identify and solve problems of great importance to the people and our community," said Wright.

Now in his third year of studies, he's the mechanical lead of the University of Alberta's RoboMaster Team. Through his work with RoboMaster's and the development and empowerment of the youth at LEGO League Alberta, Wright is making the world a better place, one LEGO Brick at a time.

The William Muir Edwards Citizenship Awards are made possible by the generosity of the David Morris Family Foundation. Wright and the other recipients will be presented with their awards on June 4, 2019.