Pursuing innovation to impact the world

 

April 3, 2017

Prior to enrolling at CMU, 23 year-old ECE junior JunSu Jang wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. He loved physics, so maybe Civil Engineering. As a freshman in the fall of 2012, Jang swapped a composition course with a course titled Fundamentals of Programming and Computer Science. It was his first experience with any type of programming and he was hooked.

“I liked the feeling I got from the class,” he says, “that I had the power to do what I wanted.” He shifted his focus to Electrical and Computer Engineering, diving in head first.

At the end of his sophomore year in 2014, Jang took a leave from CMU to return to his native South Korea in order to fulfill his home country’s military service requirement. Part of this nearly 21-month experience saw him appointed to South Korea’s UN peacekeeping troop, an appointment that took him to northeast Africa and South Sudan. Close to nine months in the war-torn nation, seeing and experiencing what he did, had a profound effect on Jang’s perspective.

“I understand now how privileged I am,” he says bluntly. “There has been a sense of responsibility that has come with that.”

When he completed his military service, Jang returned to South Korea. There, he and a friend created a start-up aimed at streamlining private storage. While the experience was one that Jang calls invaluable, he knew that he wanted to return to CMU in order to grow his abilities even further. In the spring of 2017, a few months after the start-up folded, this is what he did.

Jang returned to campus toting the sense of responsibility he’d acquired in Africa. But how could he challenge himself to make the biggest impact in the best way possible? This question has turned his attention to integrated innovation and robotics.

As he works to complete his ECE degree, he has hopes of pursuing an advanced degree in either Internet of Things (IoT) or Robotics research at CMU. To Jang, tech can create “problems being human.” Too much tech can get in the way, he feels. “I would like to change that,” he says, smiling. IoT or Robotics may be his chance to do it.

Jang shares that, because of his time in South Sudan, he better understands what tech means in the world and how it can be used. “CMU puts me in a position to understand how what I’m learning can impact the world,” he says. As he continues to push his own limits and challenge his own creativity, Jang pursues his goals with a bit different purpose nowadays.

“Innovation and money is good,” he says, “but what have I done for society?”