To freshmen: put passion over expertise

James Tukpah has always liked robots, so when he walked into the Undergraduate Lab Fair as a freshman, he immediately spotted the autonomous rovers of associate professor Taskin Padir.

The room was packed though, and the robots were on the other side of the crowd. Tukpah remembered thinking, “Is it really worth it to go over there?”

Fortunately, he did make his way to the rovers. At the time, he had no idea this decision would lead to working in Northeastern’s Robotics and Intelligent Vehicles Research Laboratory for three years under Padir’s direction.

Tukpah continued working in the lab in his second year and created a work-study position out of his research project on the localization of autonomous rovers.

Today he’s a co-op in Padir’s lab working on a project to create robotic hands, made out of soft materials, that are used to gently sort and package fish.

Between classes and his work in the lab, Tukpah makes time to serve as president of Northeastern’s Black Engineering Student Society. “I really care that we all feel like a family,” he said. “It’s a way to help people below you and learn from people above you.”

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