Kai Tinsley | Engineering Opportunity

Back home in Philadelphia, Kai Tinsley worked extensively with robotics and helped develop more affordable prosthetics for young adults. In Morningside Heights, he’s been exploring how to use engineering not only for solving technical problems but to confront broader social challenges.

“Oftentimes we have this vision of engineers being secluded in a lab or behind an isolated desk, but that does not have to be the case,” Tinsley says. “I want to go into engineering because I want to help people, I want to work with people. I want to somehow use what I learn here and bring it back to my community.”

He chose Columbia for the “countless opportunities” to do interdisciplinary work “in the midst of a world of exploration,” and to evolve skills suited to finding endless possibilities for solving real-world problems. He’s mulling majoring in operations research or computer science, and his favorite course so far is lecturer David Vallancourt’s Art of Engineering, where he is collaborating on a team project making a game from a microprocessor, electronic parts, and 3D printed pieces.

Outside of the classroom and lab, Tinsley is freshman liaison for Columbia’s chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers, working to enhance opportunities for first-year students. He’s also involved with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, mentors local high school students through the college application process with Columbia’s Double Discovery Center, and plays a variety of drums, including the djembe, cajon, congas, and others.

“Engineering is all about taking abstract ideas and using them to solve problems in very practical ways,” he says. “As of right now I’m not entirely sure where that might lead, but I want to work with and help people in the most authentic way I can.”

By Jesse Adams

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