March 12, 2014 - On Saturday morning, Limeng Liu analyzed the progress of the Goodrich High School Martian Robot while it battled at Flint's Kettering University during FIRST Robotics District Competition March 7-8.
"Our robot is way ahead of others—we're the best," he said. "The robotic team has been like a big family to me. Everyone cares for each other."
Limeng's enthusiasm is coupled with a unique international perspective.
Limeng, 17, is from the northern China city of Tianjin, the nation's fourth largest city behind Shanghai, Beijing, and Guangzhou, on the Yellow Sea. He came to Goodrich through the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE) on Aug. 15, 2013 and stays with Greg and Kelsey Thurk of Atlas Township.
"Limeng was the only member of the robotics team in his school in China—so he was a perfect fit for us as Greg is a mentor on the Goodrich Robotics Team," said Kelsey.
"Limeng's parents were eager to have him attend an American university—so he was a very good fit here at Goodrich."
Limeng is the only son of mother Qiuhui Wang and father Yajun Liu.
Qiuhui is an industrial design professor at the Beijing Institute of Technology. Limeng attended grades three through six at BIT's primary school. At age 13, he attended middle school in Tianjin and has since started high school.
"We study science and math through all years of school," he said. "There are more than 1.6 billion people in China and the competition to get into college after high school is very difficult. Each year every student spends one week studying with a soldier that's in the Chinese army and we live on the base with them. It's not fun nor easy—there's lots of exercises we must do each day."
"They push us very hard in the first 12 years of school," he said. "Then many students are tired of school so they don't go to college. But I feel college is the real time to study to get a good job, those four years are the most important. I hope to return to the United States to an American college. Maybe Massachusetts Institute of Technology, but I have to finish high school first, then apply."
Limeng's engineering abilities sparked the establishment of nine patents for inventions in China.
"Some of my projects were a new mouse for computers and after my mother cut her finger while cutting vegetables, a kitchen machine for "hands-free slicing," he said. "Then, when I was about 10-years-old, me and three friends developed a crutch to assist vision-impaired individuals. The idea was to send an alarm through the crutch, used by the individual when they strayed off a specific path. That way, once they established a path they could really go anywhere. We blindfolded ourselves to test it out. It really works well."
While Limeng has connected with regard to engineering, his communications here in the United States have been somewhat of a struggle.
"My English was really bad when I started school here— it was very hard to learn. There seems to be so many words that I can't figure out."
While Limeng's English has been an accomplishment academically—his physical skills have also improved.
"Last August I could not cover one mile. Now I can run six (miles), it's hard, but it's my choice to run. Kelsey, my host mom, is an avid runner—so she got me started," said Limeng. "Since I came to the United States I've lost 60 pounds. Went from 230 pounds down to 170 and that was my choice to eat better. I really watched my diet when I came here. It's really a choice to eat well."