To Inspire. To Be Inspired. – 30 Stories on HKUST Faculty, Alumni and Students

Throughout Zhang Yunfei’s life, his imagination has spiraled up into the clouds, plunged deep into the ocean, and eventually rocketed outwards into the creation of a unicorn company. His journey to success was an illuminating one, through postgraduate study and on to entrepreneurship, and one of the most significant discoveries the young entrepreneur made along the way was recognizing the value of a supportive learning and research environment. As an HKUST alumnus, he saw first-hand the benefits of accessible, well-managed state of the art research facilities, and it was also at HKUST where he cultivated the hobbies and interests that would carry him on to his rewarding career — and onto the high seas! 13 Before he became a world-leading mechanical engineer for unmanned ships, Zhang Yunfei was a curious and inquisitive boy growing up in Shenzhen, obsessed with tinkering with machines and his toys, to try and understand what made them tick. He built his first ship model with his father when he was at primary school. In middle school, he moved on to technology interest groups and building model ships with classmates for competitions. In his boyhood, Yunfei found himself firmly on course for a future in technology. When he arrived at HKUST, he was hopeful, driven, and armed with a lifetime’s worth of curiosity. While many of his peers were looking up to the clouds and focused on building drones, Yunfei set his sights on a different frontier — the ocean. Joining forces with a group of like-minded friends, he set about pushing the limits, by creating an unmanned surface vehicle (USV). The team converted a model ship into a USV fitted with sensors and instruments for sampling water quality, before setting it sailing from Clear Water Bay. At first, the group intended to use USVs to detect water quality parameters, but fate had other plans.