Always on

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — He entertains, whether it is at the piano or on stage. He creates, whether it is constructing a circuit board or a hackathon project. He gives much of what little time he has in the service of others, whether it’s raising money for children he has never met or working to help students make a smooth transition into the Schreyer Honors College.

Andrew Ren doesn’t have a lot of free time on his hands. But the junior electrical engineering major likes it that way.

“My roommate and friends always make fun of me, because they say that I’m trying to do too much,” Ren said. “But I like to say that I have this necessity to always be almost a little uncomfortable with my lifestyle. All of the things I’m involved in, I’m involved in for a different reason.”

Ren is the THON chair for and the newly elected president of Schreyer’s Student Council, and was one of two emcees during the finale of Schreyer’s annual student orientation event, SHO TIME, this past summer. He and a group of friends have participated in Penn State Learning Hackathons, inventing a flexible glove that would allow users to control cell phone commands based on finger movements and a breathalyzer system.

His creativity extends to music. A member of Penn State’s Inner Dimensions Jazz Ensemble, Ren is a talented piano player who has performed by himself and also as a member of a five-person jazz combo for a number of events around campus. He is working with a professor to further develop his skills on the keyboard.

“Jazz piano’s a different kind of beast than classical piano,” he said. “It’s a really interesting kind of thing to play. The word 'improvisation' is thrown around a lot. It’s not necessarily what I do. I do some improvisation, but a lot of it is being able to sight-read music and being able to play piano within an ensemble.”

As a child, Ren would ask his father questions like “How do lights work?” He chose to study electrical engineering and landed an internship with Siemens following his sophomore year.

“They had me doing a lot of low-level hardware debugging work,” he said. “The first week, they handed me a board and said, ‘Build this.’ Through that I learned a lot about the manufacturing of a board and also how designs are coming together.”

Ren helped integrate a new sensor into an electrical vehicle charger board, and was able to see it built into the boards on his final day of the internship.

“There’s always something interesting happening in the world of electronics, whether that’s cell phones or solar energy,” said Ren, who will intern at National Instruments as part of its Engineering Leadership Program this summer. “It’s a field that is a good combination of application in terms of things you can physically hold, but also backed with a lot of theory.”

When it came time to look at potential colleges, Ren was attracted to Schreyer Honors College enough to make a call to ask for a tour of the campus. Although the college’s website said the spots for tours were filled, someone scheduled a time for him to visit anyway.

“I know it wasn’t too big of a deal,” he said, “but it was still really meaningful to me.”

His engineering activities and classes satisfy the “tinkerer” in Ren, he says. His music is his creative outlet, and his duties with THON and SHO TIME allow him to give to others. Time management is a big part of his life, but so are the variety of activities that make managing that time so essential.

“An important thing for me to look at is balance in the future,” Ren said. “But I’ve met people who have dropped one thing for another, and I don’t know if that’s what I want to do.”

Last Updated April 19, 2017