Kevin Xu

This edition’s star of Humans of ICS is Kevin Xu!

We hope you enjoy reading about Kevin and his passion for computer hardware, art, music, gaming, and more.

Year: 3rd
Major: Computer Engineering

Nathan: Hello, everyone. Welcome back to another episode of Humans of ICS. Today, we have Kevin Xu! Kevin, would you like to start by introducing yourself, your name, your major, and pronouns?

Kevin: Sure, I'm Kevin, a third year computer engineer. My pronouns are he and him.

N: So why did you choose computer engineering as your major?

K: I think I really like working with the hardware of computers and stuff. So that's like Arduinos and and just knowing how the architecture, like the hardware architecture, of the computer works alongside the internals. The software stuff in the computer–I think pure CS has a lot more like algorithms and theory–and that interests me less than the hardware side of things.

N: Yeah, definitely. I can see, or I did not even know computer engineering was a thing until at one of my hackathons, my mentor was a computer engineering major and I thought it was the same thing but it was actually not.

K: Yeah, it's very close though, yeah.

N: Regarding computer engineering, I'm assuming you are passionate about that. Why are you passionate about and where did you develop that passion?

K: I'm just pretty passionate in general about just creating and making things, so computers and software, or whatever, is just one avenue to making things, whether it be like art, music, or, a game. You know anything, really.

N: That definitely sounds very interesting. Anyway, what is one piece of advice that you would give yourself before coming to UCI?

K: One piece of advice is just to start doing things. I know there's this initial mental block of actually starting a project or continuing something to the end., But I do find that when working with other people, you end up actually completing things versus when you start something by yourself, and then you just kind of forget about it and go back to doing whatever it was you were doing before. So I guess, I don't know, work or make or get started on a project with someone.

N: Speaking of doing things or working on projects with other people, you mentioned that new, co-founded and up and coming startup with your roommates. Can you talk more about that?

K: Essentially it's currently sort of a food delivery platform. You know how Doordash and UberEats, or whatever they make you pay like these massive stacks of fees on top of the food?. If you just wanted a sandwich or something that's $5, you have to pay like $10 plus extra fees. And so the trick we're going with is that if someone is already going to the restaurant–you know,they're already on their way to grab take out from, let's say, chipotle right–then they can also pick up an order for you and drop it back for you along on their way home. So then we can then reduce that delivery price to something like $3 instead of $10. So now you can actually pay a legitimate fee for something you purchased because someone was already on their way to the restaurant. So we're kind of piggybacking and making the system more efficient.

N: Oh, that definitely, actually sounds very efficient, oh my god.

K: Yeah, and we're, you know, we're still working on it. We're pivoting a little bit but I believe we'll have the app done on like Monday, to be honest.

N: Oh, this Monday?

K: Yeah.

N: That's great to hear! Oh my God, how long have you guys been planning on this?

K: I don't, oh, I think we've been working on this for probably, what, since November or September? So probably a little under half a year? I'm not too sure, but we've been at this for a while. We've made a lot of small adjustments along the way, and if anybody wants to get on the mailing list or you can go to

N: Okay, definitely! I will put that down for when we will promote your post. Okay, onto the next question: I heard you won $50,000 at a hackathon. That's a lot of money, congratulations! Can you tell us more about the project that you made to achieve that much money?

K: It was a team of, well, we started as 2 people, and then we moved on to like 5 people. But it wasn’t a hackathon necessarily in the normal sense, because it was like a 3 month kind of thing. Oh, yeah, and the $50,000 was rewarded in the company's respective cryptocurrency, since it was a hackathon for their blockchain tech. But the technology behind it was kind of interesting. Normally with live streaming, you have to like, get it straight from the server or something. Right. So the trick is that if, say, a lot of people are watching a stream, and then one person falls behind, rather than querying the server to try and get more of that data, you can have a peer send it to you. And then, because that peer is sharing their network with you, they're awarded in cryptocurrency as compensation. That's generally what it was. What we end up making was a live streaming platform, which then was also kind of a startup, but ultimately, this one didn't really go anywhere because we came up with the product first, then we tried to make a business around it. And that's not really a feasible way of going about things.

N: Yeah, thank you for that follow-up explanation. It definitely does sound like something interesting that is obviously difficult to make.

K: Yeah it was hard because it was just not very well documented. So it was a lot of just scraping things together, to be honest.

N: Yeah, but you did win $50,000, which is very rewarding.

K: Yeah that's true, but also the competition was very low, because not many people join these kinds of hackathons because both the tech is hard to work with and, it's also just super undocumented and there's not really much support

N: As you said, if you start doing things with other people and you do something that no one else is doing, then there's a high chance of you just gaining more out of it in that it will benefit you. Okay, onto the next question. You said you have around and over 2,000 hours on Warframe.When did you start playing this game, and what made you commit to spending that much time on it?

K: To be honest, I probably started, at some point in high school. I don't know, maybe, it was somewhere between freshman and sophomore year in high school, so I guess I've been playingWarframe on and off for 6 years, or something at this point. I don't know. I just kept playing it, but these days I don't actually play as often, I mean, sometimes I'll come back to it and play for like a stretch. I just enjoy, I mean you know, I kind of just like hoarding things. The game lets me just amass lots of resources. So I guess it just kind of tricks my brain into thinking I'm doing something productive.

N: Yeah, definitely, you sound like you actually do a lot of productive things. So it's nice to have a game as a hobby to play from time to time. You also mentioned that you know how to cut your own hair. That is actually very impressive. I really respect people who can, like, do those types of things like themselves, instead of, like, going to a salon.

K: Yeah, I mean I can't say I cut it well necessarily, but it gets me by. I started because of quarantine, since my hair was getting long, and I didn't know what to do. So then I just went at it.

N: Oh, did you just learn how to cut your own hair during quarantine?

K: Yeah. I just kind of messed around with the, with like a, what are those electric razors? I guess it's called an electric razor. Yeah, I just messed around with that and now I mostly just cut the sides in the back, and that's kind of it.

N: That's so cool, like even though you claim you're not good, I mean at least you're messing around with it, and actually doing the job.

K: It just saves me money, and so I recommend it.

N: I do not think I will be able to do that without it going disastrously.

K: Just go at it.

N: Well, but yeah, if I listen to your advice that you would give yourself before coming to UCI just do it, then maybe I just might.

K: Yeah, a lot of things you just have to do. You just have to go for it, to be honest.

N: Okay, So the next series of questions will be a form of rapid-fire questions of this or that questions.
K: Okay, okay.

N: So, first one: early riser or night owl?
K: I would like to think of myself as an early riser, but I end up staying quite late into the night sometimes. But I like waking up early. Because I really hate waking up late, so anything that prevents me from waking up late is pretty good.

N: Spicy or sweet?
K: I'm gonna go with a bit of a non-answer. I like both. They got their own time and place in foods

N: Definitely agree. Puppies. or kittens?
K: I'm gonna sidestep and say rabbits and bunnies.

N: Netflix or Youtube?
K: Youtube, because I don't have Netflix. Actually, I don't really watch movies in general.

N: iOS or Android?
K: They both got their ups and downs. I'm using an iOS phone, but I do like the customizability of Android, I guess. But the Android is actually kind of a little jank, to be honest.

N: Coffee or tea?
K: I like tea but I don't really drink it that often.

N: What about milk tea?
K: I actually don't even drink milk tea that often. I don't know the last time I bought milk tea. It was probably years ago to be honest.

N: Staying in or going out?
K: I like doing both, you know? Like having time for myself and I also like going out with friends. I don't have a preference necessarily for both or for either.

N: Okay, and that concludes our interview together. Thank you so much for letting me interview you today.

Thanks to Kevin for being a part of Humans of ICS and thank you for reading this edition of Humans of ICS! Make sure to follow ICSSC (@icssc.uci) on Instagram for updates on events and helpful infographics!

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