Sami Mian — Distinguished Service Award and Gold Ceremony Speaker
B.S.E. in Computer Systems Engineering
B.S. in Computational Mathematical Sciences
Graduated from Chaparral High School in Scottsdale, Arizona
Sami Mian’s first exposure to engineering was through the FIRST® Robotics team he founded in high school.
“I loved it,” Mian recalled. “Building something from scratch from the ground up — incorporating elements of mechanical and electrical engineering — and seeing if it worked right then and there, it was amazing.”
Since that formative experience with the discipline, Mian has thrown himself wholly into advancing his own and others’ knowledge of engineering with the characteristic enthusiasm and gusto he’s known for.
While still in high school, Mian pursued ways to learn more about engineering. After participating in the Fulton Schools’ 9up Robotics camp, he found himself working to develop camp curricula under the guidance of Yinong Chen, a senior lecturer in the School of Computing, Informatics, and Decisions Systems Engineering. Named a National Merit and Flinn Scholar in 2012, Mian had his pick of colleges to attend upon graduating high school. With offers from the University of California, Berkeley and Carnegie Mellon University, Mian ultimately chose to come to ASU, knowing there were ample ways to explore his interest at the Fulton Schools.
“Along with the connections I already had here, I knew the potential to get involved with research at ASU was tremendous,” said Mian. “During my second semester I was already working on a NASA project,” he added.
Mian, who is also a student in Barrett, the Honors College, has participated in the Fulton Undergraduate Research Initiative (FURI) from Fall 2013 to Spring 2014, working on finding low-powered solutions for high-powered video bandwidth.
Outside of the classroom and auxiliary academic programs, Mian also founded the Sun Devil Robotics Club, which he said is both one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of his undergraduate career.
“We grew the team from nothing,” said Mian. “The outreach efforts have been rewarding, but it was very challenging. People we worked with in high school have come to ASU and joined the team — but getting it to that point, to be able to do that was very challenging.”
The club has grown to become a Dean’s Funded organization and attracted numerous sponsors, winning the Most Active Student Organization Award in 2014 and 2016, along with recognition for their K-12 outreach efforts in 2015. Mian himself was recently named Outstanding Student Organization Leader as well.
Mian’s interest in robotics has inspired him to use his education to change the world.
“Engineering is about solving problems, and in my field of robotics, we are looking to change how we interact with robots,” said Mian. “Not only are we working to replace jobs, we’re working to create them as well.”
Through robotics, Mian hopes to remove barriers for those with disabilities with assistive technologies, teach robots how to better work with humans or create systems to serve humanity, such as advanced search and rescue robots or self-navigating cars.
It was during a study abroad program in Singapore that he fully realized the potential for robotics to make a positive impact on society.
“I was invited to work for a research group there for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT),” Mian said. “We were actually able to build and deploy our solution — cloud-managed self-driving cars — and present it to the president of MIT as well as the Prime Minister of Singapore and his Cabinet.”
But what really tied it all together was when he gave a presentation on the project.
“I was able to really impress upon people how technologies like this will benefit humanity. With self-driving cars, we can eliminate up to 90 percent of accidents — savings thousands of lives and millions of dollars a year,” he said.
Just as when he left high school, Mian now has numerous opportunities to choose from. He wants to pursue a doctorate in computer engineering and is currently deciding between remaining at ASU or attending Carnegie Mellon University, Stanford University or returning to the National University of Singapore to continue his work with self-navigating cars.
Wherever he ends up, Mian has resolved to be the guy saying, “let’s do this.”
“Ideally I’d like to be the director of a research and development group at a big company, maybe even at an executive level,” he added. “But I want to stay steeped in the technical aspect as well — A big dreamer, a guy with a technical background who’s still guiding things from the trenches.”