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Campus Conversations: Audrey Zhao

First, of all, tell us a little bit about yourself! 

I’m Audrey. I’m a freshman at UW from Marin County, California. I like to read the news in the morning. I love the process of using a french press to make coffee. Kids my age would call me a “Cool Cat.”

You’re part of the UW Hyperloop Team – what is the team and what’s working on it like? 

The Hyperloop team is composed of a group of engineers, business students, and innovators who care about the future of self sustaining and renewable transportation. We’re dedicated to creating the Hyperloop, a form of transportation that utilizes a pod (the vessel people will be in) and a large pneumatic tube it would move through, that will cut the travel time down between cities, for example, Seattle and Vancouver, or equivalently, San Francisco and Los Angeles, to 30 minutes. This idea was first developed by Elon Musk.

The UW Hyperloop team is competing in competitions held by SpaceX to create the pod that will be used to travel through the pneumatic tube. We’re going up against other colleges like MIT, Delft, and UC Berkeley among others and we’ve done pretty well–we placed 6th in the world and 4th in the US at the last competition just a few weeks ago in late January, 2017

I’m the team’s current Partnership Relations and Marketing Lead. Our team is relatively small, so it feels like a community and a start up! Everyone on the team has a specific project or role but because there is always so much that we would love to do, whether it is conducting more trade studies or talking to more sponsors, everyone needs to be versatile in helping each other out. Overall, the team is super supportive, super hardworking (everyone is in the lab at least 10 hrs a week!), and super, super smart! (And we’re always looking for more people to join our team!)

via GeekWire

How did you get involved? 

During the summer, I was super hyped about coming to UW and made a list of clubs that I really wanted to get to know/get involved with. When I read about Hyperloop, I was so excited that I called my mom about it in the middle of the day and applied to join the club as part of the business management team immediately. I had an interview in late October and started participating in the business management team in November.

What’s been the hardest/most stressful? 

Just this past Monday, the Hyperloop team submitted a business plan to apply to participate in the Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge. My project for a few weeks was to write the 5-7 page business plan. It was my first time writing a business plan and I definitely did not know what to expect until I actually started writing it!

What’s been the most fun?

I love moving outside of my comfort zone! The business plan was definitely fun to write because it’s so new and different compared to anything I’ve written before. I also love being at the physical lab working alongside everyone because the vibe of the team is really fun.

Did you have a tech background or not? If you didn’t – why/how was this something you were interested in?

I’m from the Bay Area so tech and innovation are always something I think about. However, I definitely don’t have any experience in technology beyond reading or talking to people about it. I suppose, even though I didn’t have any experience with technology, I love experiencing new things and just took a leap of faith. I’m glad I did because I’m still here, having a great time, at UW Hyperloop!

How do you balance everything going on? Any advice on time management or lessons learned?

I have a planner that I write everything in. Or try to write everything in. I’m definitely stressed when I’m off schedule because in addition to Hyperloop, I’m also involved in other clubs and activities on campus, not to mention homework and hanging out with friends. However, I think the most important lesson I’ve learned is to take time off doing things and just set aside “nothing time.” I like to lay in bed and switch between napping and just being really comfortable and curled up (in my queen sized comforter on a twin size college bed: pure luxury).

via Instagram

What’s your advice for freshman settling into UW? What’s worked best for you?

It’s been really great for me to be somewhat disconnected from social media. I also support purchasing the occasional avocado because avocados are vessels of self love and goodness. The proof of this is that I once teared up because an avocado was too green and too good to be true.

Hyperloop sounds like it has some late nights – where on the Ave do you get your favorite caffeine fix? 

Oh man! So Many Late Nights (But I love it!!! I promise!). I’m relatively uncultured when it comes to coffee places on the Ave–I’ve been to Slate and Starbucks and that’s really all. My favorite place to get coffee in Seattle, however, is Bedlam Coffee in Belltown because bedlam perfectly describes my 24/7 general surprise that I am 18 years old and an adult. 

Besides Hyperloop, what are some of your hobbies? 

I recently rediscovered climbing! I try to go at least once every week. I love to play chess and piano. Sometimes, when I’m feeling extra pretentious, I write some really rough poetry. 

If you had a spirit animal, what would it be? 

Waxy Monkey Tree Frog. I have been compared to Kermit.

via Instagram

What’s your favorite Molly Moon’s flavor? 

I’m partial to Sweet Alchemy, which is Molly Moon’s competitor on The Ave. Thai Iced Tea flavor all the way.

What’s one thing you want to cross off your bucket list before you graduate? 

I’m curious what it would taste like to consolidate all the EmergenC flavors. I want simple things.

Learn more about the UW Hyperloop Team at their website and Facebook page

Hannah is a senior studying marketing and English at the University of Washington and is the Editor of the UW Her Campus chapter. She was also a Summer 2017 editorial intern for Her Campus Media. When not editing, writing, or pitching articles, she's probably at brunch.
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