Research assistant builds on knowledge

Ba Binh Luong (pictured) at his workstation and Niagara College's Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre.
Ba Binh Luong (pictured) at his workstation and Niagara College

When telecommunications engineer Ba Binh Luong wants to take a break and de-stress from his daily tasks of computer programming, developing software and creating wireless protocols, he turns his attention to researching a diverse range of topics – just for fun.

His curiosity leads him to explore new technologies, big data, cryptocurrency, geography and law. And what is sitting on his nightstand? Introduction to Algorithms, Third Edition, MIT Press.

“I know it is a weird relaxation method, but it is how I unwind my head.”

Luong started with the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre (WAMIC) in November 2020 as a computer programming research assistant. A Niagara College graduate (2021) of Computer Programming, he’s now enrolled in the Industrial Automation program – a one-year graduate certificate – at NC for this fall.

Prior to arriving in Canada to begin his studies, the 33-year-old spent eight years as a telecommunications engineer for Viettel Network, Vietnam’s largest telecommunications company. This after earning a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical, Electronics and Communications Engineering at the Post and Telecommunications Institute of Technology, a university based in his home country of Vietnam. He also specialized in physics at a high school for gifted students. 

While he had a “good career” in Vietnam, he wanted to widen his knowledge in a complementary field and to also lay the groundwork for his goal of obtaining a Master’s degree in computer science.

“All IoT devices have to have software to process data and protocol, and what I have learned in the programming field can help me develop the application for it,” explains Luong. “The evolution of Industry 4.0 and the rapid growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) has changed our world. The core of it all is based on software development, speed of information transmission and big data processing.”

At WAMIC, Luong is receiving real-world experience working on projects for industry partners, including IoT projects, developing software and web services to support device-to-device connection.

“I had the chance to develop embedded software for a microcontroller, a mobile application for smartphones, and conduct research about the protocol for interacting with and controlling electronic devices.”

Currently, he’s working on a project to develop a mobile application for the remote control of a set of wireless IoT devices which are geographically dispersed.

“WAMIC is a great place to apply my knowledge in the real world. Engaging in the workforce definitely helps me to immerse and improve my technical knowledge.”

“I’m working to develop both the mobile application and Web API (Application Protocol Interface) on a server site,” he says, adding that the project interests him because it involves not just software development but also hardware, electrical circuits and IoT.

“WAMIC is a great place to apply my knowledge in the real world. Engaging in the workforce definitely helps me to immerse and improve my technical knowledge,” he says. “I also appreciate all the time I share with the team on my present project.”

One of Luong’s biggest hurdles in making Canada home, he says, has been learning the English language. He spent two years of serious study to reach the standard to apply for a study permit to come to this country and upon arrival he was required to take an eight-month EAP (English for Academic Purposes) program to enhance his skills.

“I have problems with pronunciation and accent, which results in many embarrassing situations,” he says with a laugh. “It is hard to express my ideas or feelings in English, and not everyone has the patience to communicate with me.”

His other challenge has been the restriction to visiting his family (parents and two siblings) back in Vietnam. His plans to visit in July 2020 were thwarted by the global pandemic restrictions.

That said, Luong is accustomed to not seeing his family much over the years. Being from a small rural village, he has had to move away on his own for education in larger cities since the age of 16 – visiting his family only twice a year.

“Thanks to technology, I can make video calls to my family at home and keep in touch closely.”

Meanwhile, he takes pleasure in sharing outdoor activities, like jogging, with his fiancé.

“I enjoy Canada’s natural beauty and have many stories to share with my fiancé when we are out,” he adds. “I believe that jogging has to turn into a habit. It’s not only good for my health but also creates a bond between me and my girl.”

Always a keen student of knowledge, he also plans on learning to swim as soon as his gym reopens.