Thomas Derby and Lego Camp

From Legos to Biomedical Engineering: A Student Profile

A Q&A session with biomedical engineer and former Penn State Wilkes-Barre Summer Youth Camp attendee, Thomas Derby; how his time at the Lego Mindstorm Robotics camp kick-started a career path in engineering.
By: Rachel Olszewski

Strategic Communications spoke with Thomas Derby to ask him about his time at the Penn State Wilkes-Barre Summer Youth Camp and how it influenced his decision to attend Penn State Wilkes-Barre and eventually make the transition to University Park to obtain his degree in biomedical engineering.

SC: First and foremost, thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. To begin, what made you interested in attending a Penn State Summer Youth Camp?
TD: I was interested in Lego’s and building things at a young age, so when I got a flyer for the Lego Mindstorm camp my parents thought it would be fun for me to try, and I was happy to try something new that related to my interests.

SC: Were you interested in robotics and engineering before the Lego Mindstorm Robotics camp?
TD: I was definitely interested in robotics and engineering before the camp. However, at that young of an age it can be difficult to get started in the field without knowledge of complex math and physics.

SC: What was your favorite part about the camp?
TD: My favorite part about the camp was how hands-on it was and the how they constantly built on prior knowledge to teach and reinforce concepts of physics.

SC: Did your experience influence your decision to attend the Wilkes-Barre campus over University Park?
TD: The camp didn’t have a major role of my decision to attend Wilkes-Barre. However, it was nice to go attend a college that I have had such a good experience at in the past.

SC: After your time on the Wilkes-Barre campus, you decided to make the transition to University Park in order to pursue a degree in biomedical engineering. What exactly does the study of that profession entail?
TD: Biomedical engineers deal with any devices that encounter the human body. Most commonly they have a big role in prosthetics however, the field also deals with medical imaging devices, drug delivery, drug research and design, implantable materials, and much more. Therefore, the study entail a knowledge of advanced math, physics, biology, and chemistry.

SC: How did the camp influence you in choosing your major as a biomedical engineer?
TD: The camp really was my first exposure to engineering. For that reason, it had a huge impact on my future studies in math and science, and ultimately my decision to become an engineer. My choice of biomedical engineering stemmed from my interest in biology and chemistry.

SC: Finally, what advice would you give prospective campers interested in what Penn State has to offer?
TD: I would tell prospective campers to do it without hesitation. Penn State is a great facility with an amazing staff that is able to tailor programs to your interest. If you have even a superficial interest in engineering, I cannot recommend a camp like this enough.