The Social Engineer: A Spotlight on Jason Wang
From grade school to post-secondary, students are often reminded of the looming dangers climate change poses to our society. They learn coastal cities are at risk of flooding from melting sea ice, and that severe weather will become more common thanks to rising global temperatures. However, reading textbooks and preparing for exams alone will not stop climate change.
Jason, a fifth-year Mechanical Engineering student and Peter Lougheed Leadership College scholar at the University of Alberta, was always intrigued about the impact renewable energy could have on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and halting climate change.
When he was contemplating on a specific discipline during his first year as an engineering student, Jason felt mechanical engineering provided the most diverse skillsets in allowing him to further his interests in renewable energy technology to build a better world.
Becoming involved in the campus community was important for Jason, as this presented him with opportunities to explore ways he could improve the lives of students.
“You can develop some skills by simply going to class, but the real world challenges us to come together and think about how we can build a world together,” Jason said.
This philosophy inspired Jason to join the EcoCar team, a University of Alberta engineering project group that builds hydrogen fuel-cell powered cars to complete in the annual Shell Eco-Marathon race.
Jason started out helping with recruitment, and has transitioned into playing a pivotal role as the team’s project manager. He currently leads an 80-member team in building an environmentally-friendly vehicle that can drive the furthest distance with the least amount of energy.
In 2016, the EcoCar team placed first at the Shell Ecomarathon Americas, beating out strong competition from teams across North and South America.
“People always ask how well we have done and the answer is we have captured many first-places and second-places in our short history,” Jason said. “Underneath all that, we have had close to 1,000 students move through the team. It’s scary to think about the magnitude of the impact we have had in the community.”
Student governance was another way for Jason to reach out to students on campus. He has been part of the Engineering Students’ Society, the Engineering Councilor for the University of Alberta Students’ Union, and has served on the University of Alberta Senate.
Of the three experiences, Jason is most fond of his time spent in the Engineering Students’ Society — the student group that represents all undergraduate engineering students at the University of Alberta. As the group’s Vice-President Internal, he assisted with revamping the organization’s mandate, and searched for ways to improve engagement with engineering students.
“We emphasized the importance of building a community around engineering students,” Jason said. “We should be there to help students help each other, come together, learn from each other, and study with each other.”
Jason’s enthusiasm in community building took him to Pangnirtung on Baffin Island in his second year of studies. He joined Engage North after realizing there were many areas in Canada where residents could not enjoy the same standard of living as those in bigger cities.
Engage North is an organization founded upon connecting the needs of communities in the northern territories with resources available in other provinces across the country. During his time in Pangnirtung, Jason worked on developing a virtual arcade project for the community’s youth centre to incentivize physical fitness with technology.
While his project was never built, Jason credits his Engage North mentors for teaching him the importance of allowing participation from community members in the project.
“One of the things I took from this experience was that you cannot just go into a community and think you can solve their problems,” Jason said. “You really have to work with the community to build their capacity in identifying the gaps and finding a solution.”
In doing so, Jason wants students to know his accomplishments were only made possible by the idea of teamwork — multiple people coming together with similar visions and working together to deliver a unified objective.
As he enters his final year on campus at the University of Alberta, Jason is already hard at work finding ways to inspire people to become more engaged in the world around them.
“Everybody’s voices should be heard, and as a society, we should allow people to express, and then act together to move forward,” Jason said.