A love of Lego led Alice to engineering – with Alice Ying

Hanyu (Alice) Ying is one of three 2020 ACE New Zealand Student Award recipients. Alice sat down and talked to us about her love of Lego, Denmark and Geotechnical Engineering.  

Alice Ying

Alice, tell us about why you got into engineering?  

I've always loved Lego. I love building structures. I don't get a lot of time in between study to do it anymore, but I find when I do it's my form of meditation, it calms me!  

I also really enjoyed physics and chemistry in high school. I thought I wanted to be a structural engineer, but further into my engineering degree, and work experience; I realised geotechnical engineering is where my heart is.  

You're finishing your final year of study, what will you do once that's completed?  

I completed my first of two internships with Aurecon in Tauranga almost two years ago. They've offered me a position as a geotechnical engineer once I finish my studies this year. I'm excited as it means I can work as a geotechnical engineer, which I love, plus it's where I grew up so I can go back home!  

Alice's lego creations

Tell us about your internship with Beca 

I completed a two-month internship with Beca in Auckland recently. I was assigned a buddy who shadowed me throughout my time there. It was a relief as I'd forgotten everyone's name after the first day!  

We got to do a site visit with some of the other interns to the America's Cup site at Wynyard Quarter. I've made some great connections with the other interns which I suspect I'll continue to keep and develop throughout my professional career.  

It was a great balance between doing office-based work such as performing foundation design and site condition analyses as well as going out to the field and do lab testing. 

Beca has a geo testing lab which was great. We'd get to test soil for moisture content and see whether the ground was suitable to build on. We'd analyse soil strength, density and particle size distribution.  

I also got to visit the wastewater treatment plant in Tauranga. I don't think many people would say this, but I enjoyed it!  

Where do you see yourself in ten years?  

Oh gosh, I haven't thought about it. I was so determined to be a geotechnical engineer, which I've done. I guess I'm not someone who looks too far into the future, but I'd have to say I'd look at doing my Masters once I've got more experience on the job.  

Hopefully, I'll travel to places overseas.  

I'd planned a trip to Sweden and Denmark, but then COVID got in the way. I was going to go in their winter so had planned to do a bit of skiing. I used to ski when I was a kid, I don't think I'm that good, but I do enjoy it.  

America's Cup site visit

Why did you apply for the ACE New Zealand Student Award?  

I'd completed by practical work report and received some quite good feedback, which was good because I didn't have a lot of confidence. My tutor encouraged me to apply. I don't know what I'm going to do with the prize money yet though!  

What would you say to someone thinking about applying?  

Just go for it. Don't worry about whether you'll be a winner or not, even applying is good as it gives you confidence.  

What else do you like to do in your spare time?  

I love to box. I do one-on-one classes twice a week, and it's a great pressure release!  

Next steps  

Alice will be awarded the Student Award at the ACE Awards. Details on the awards to come.