The intersecting lives of two ME undergrads

5/15/2023 Lexi Larson and Maddie Yang

Beginning with a preschool friendship in Evanston, IL, then journeying through middle school and high school together, MechSE seniors Lexi Larson and Maddie Yang graduated from UIUC this past weekend.   

Written by Lexi Larson and Maddie Yang

Meet Lexi and Maddie!

Before college... We both grew up in Evanston, IL, a suburb just north of Chicago. We went to preschool, middle school, and high school together. As mechanical engineering undergrads, we did A LOT together, but we each had our own unique experiences too!  Check out the highlights below of our four years in MechSE!

Maddie and Lexi in preschool


Freshman Year

  • Lived in Allen Hall (together!)
    • Took piano lessons through the dorm
  • Older brother at UIUC too!
  • Started in Engineering Undeclared
  • Joined Baja as a general member (chassis)
    • First project was heat-affected zone research
    • Went to a few overnight competitions and events: Midnight Mayhem and Winter Baja
  • Joined Menace - Women’s Ultimate Frisbee
    • Three weekend tournaments
    • Two 3-hour practices a week
  • Joined Alpha Omicron Pi - social sorority 
    • Considered Theta Tau but didn’t end up rushing due to my schedule filling up
  • Went to the career fair (unsuccessfully)
    • No longer had to go to my 8:00 am lecture though …
Fall 2019  Spring 2020
ENG 100 ME 199
ME 199 TAM 211
ABE 100 GER 251
CEE 195 MATH 241
ENG 101 ME 170
MATH 231 RHET 105
PHYS 211  
  • Highlights: ABE 100 presentation took 3rd place, Baja helped me decide to declare ME, and I met lots of fun people!
  • Worked at summer camp and took PHYS 212 at a community college over the summer.

Curtis Orchard Pumpkin Patch - group of studentsLexi and Maddie laugh with a pumpkin on Maddie's head.

Lexi and Maddie in middle schoolLexi and Maddie in high school


Freshman Year

  • Lived in Allen Hall (together!)
    • Took piano lessons through the dorm
  • I was the first of my cousins to start college
  • Started in Mechanical Engineering
  • Joined Baja as a general member (chassis)
    • First project was carbon fiber research
    • Went to a few overnight competitions and events: Drive Day, Midnight Mayhem, and Winter Baja
  • Joined the Asian American Association (AAA)
    • Went to a couple of events and had a mentor
    • Volunteered once to teach adopted Asian kids about Asian culture
  • Took Grainger First Year project class
  • Went to the career fair (unsuccessfully)
  • Struggled in ME200
  • Started working for MechSE Communications in the spring!
Fall 2019 Spring 2020
ENG 100 ME 199
ME 199 TAM 211
CLCV 115 CS 125
ENG 177 CS 196
MATH 286 ECE 205
ME 170 ECON 102
ME 200 ENG 177
  MATH 415
  • Highlights: joining the Baja team, taking CLCV 115, and piano lessons.
  • Did nothing at home over the summer because of COVID.

On a busBaja car in the snow

Sophomore Year

  • Lived in the sorority house
    • Got my little
    • Served as Environmental Chair for the house
  • Menace - Vice President
    • Coordinated fundraisers and Alumni Weekend
    • Worked to set up practices while being COVID safe
  • Baja - General Member (chassis)
    • Designed the steering column & floor panel
    • Joined business and electronics and testing sub team
    • Floating shop was still in-person
    • Started machine training at ESPL
  • Started working for MechSE Communications like Maddie!
  • Applied for T&M minor, but didn’t get it
    • Glad I tried, but it worked out for the best because I don’t love business
  • Got my COVID vaccine
  • Experienced spring in Champaign-Urbana for the first time!
Fall 2020  Spring 2021
ME 199 ME 199
ME 270 STAT 400
ME 290 ECE 206
TAM 251 MATH 415
AAS 100 ME 200
ECE 205 TAM 212
MATH 285  
  • Highlights: Stat 400 with Albert Yu, lots of nice walks with friends 🙂
  • Summer: Back at summer camp

Sophomore Year

      • Took one in-person lab each semester
  • First cousin came to study at UIUC!
  • Lived in brand new ISR
  • Baja - Outreach Director
      • Designed suspension tabs
      • Ran a mentorship program, virtual events for recruitment, and some community outreach
      • Attended my first official competition in Louisville at the end of the year!
  • Research: Wave Propagation and Metamaterials Lab under Professor Katie Matlack
      • Learned about ultrasonic non-destructive evaluation
      • Created video for EOH
  • Career Fair more successful this time
  • Joined ASME projects team
  • Struggled in ME 310
  • Got my COVID vaccine
  • Experienced spring in Champaign-Urbana for the first time!
Fall 2020 Spring 2021
ME 199 ME 199
ME 270 STAT 400
ME 290 AAS 100
TAM 251 MATH 347H
ASST 104 ME 297
ME 297 ME 310
ME 445 ME 340
TAM 212  
  • Highlights: taking ME 445 which was my only in-person class that semester, going to my first Baja competition, and being on the leadership team!
  • Summer: Worked for Caterpillar, Inc., lived in my (first) apartment in CU.

Junior Year

  • First apartment with 3 roommates
  • Younger brother comes to study at UIUC!
  • Baja - General member
    • Joined Suspension sub-team
    • Designed rear uprights
  • Volunteer work - Contextual Engineering Group
    • Worked with farmers in Guatemala to develop more efficient oven to roast cardamom seeds
  • Study abroad – applied in the fall for the spring semester
    • Was worried I wouldn’t go because of COVID
    • I got to go and attended the University College Dublin (read my blog)
  • Got COVID in Ireland
  • Frisbee - UCD mixed and women’s team
    • Went to Cork and Limerick with the team
    • How I made Irish friends 🙂
  • Traveled around Ireland and Europe: Northern Ireland, Scotland, Spain, Denmark, Sweden, France, Switzerland, Croatia, Czechia, Austria, and Portugal!
  • ME 370 walker project was fun AND hard
Fall 2021  Spring 2022
ME 199 ME 360*
ME 370 CS 101*
ABE 436 LAS 291
ART 140 ME 330*
LAS 291 PHYS 213*
ME 340  
MUS 133  

* Course equivalents while studying abroad

  • Highlights: ME 340, Art 140 was so fun
  • Summer: Internship at DeltaHawk Engines
Baja in the winter snow
Winter Baja.

Junior Year

  • Things are back to in-person (mostly)
  • Apartment with 1 roommate, near the Engineering Student Project Lab (ESPL)
  • Baja - Chassis lead
    • Led and organized all chassis projects
    • Also designed rear suspension control arm
  • Continued research through the ISUR program
    • Worked on correlating ultrasonic properties with strength of binderjet additively manufactured materials
    • Gave a poster presentation in the spring
  • Had a more successful career fair
  • Got COVID 🙁
  • Struggled in ME 330 and ME 360
  • Pulled (my first) all-nighter for ME 370
    • And worked on the project over fall break
  • Picked up a grading position for ME 370 in the spring
  • Started playing intramurals
  • Took a trip to a steel plant with WiMSE
Fall 2021 Spring 2022
ME 199 ME 360
ME 370 ARTJ 391
ENG 199 ECE 206
KIN 104 ENG 377
ME 330 GSD 103
TAM 451 ME 199
  ME 371
  • Highlights: Taking ice skating and game design, building a traditional Japanese boat and a Baja SAE vehicle in one year, and working on the ME37x projects (kinda)
  • Summer: Moved to Milwaukee and worked in product design
Girls of Baja
Girls of Baja 2023.

Senior Year

  • Second apartment with my same 4 roommates
  • Baja - Senior Designer
    • Frame and Tab Jig
  • Decreased my involvement with the Frisbee team, as it became hard to balance with Baja Senior Capstone Design
    • Started spring “pick up” frisbee games for fun with people in the community
    • Had more free time this semester, which felt amazing!
  • Career fair in the Spring - success!
    • Interviewed at several places
    • Negotiated a signing bonus
  • Struggled in ME 320
Fall 2022  Spring 2023
ENG 491 ME 320
ME 310 ME 470
ME 371 ME 483
PHYS 214  
  • Highlights:  ME 310 with Professor Ewoldt, the foosball table in Lu MEB, and getting closer with Baja teammates after my semester away
  • Planning to go backpacking in Yosemite this summer!
  • Working at Caterpillar starting this July

Senior Year

  • Second apartment with 3 roommates and a dog
  • My sister and another cousin come to study at UIUC!
  • Baja - Captain plus Senior Capstone Design
    • Frame
  • No career fair
    • Negotiated a full-time contract for the first time
  • Was an ELA (loved that, shout-out ME7 section)
  • Had more free time! (for the first semester, like ever)
  • Struggled in ME 320
Fall 2022 Spring 2023
ENG 491 ME 320
ART 140 ME 470
ME 458 KIN 102
ME 461 ME 446
  • Highlights: Had so much fun in my art class and I loved captaining Baja, also got my bowling average up to 90 💪
  • Planning a trip to Europe this summer!
  • Working at Milwaukee Tool full-time starting in August


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This story was published May 15, 2023.