Kyle Johnson

Marcy Migdal Fellow


Kyle Johnson is a recipient of a Fellowship from the Marcy Migdal Fund for Educational Equality. The award supports exceptional students engaged in activities aimed at enhancing access to education for vulnerable students, either locally or throughout the world, and helping them succeed in their education. Click here to learn more about the Marcy Migdal Fund.

I am a third year Ph.D. Candidate in Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington (UW) where I work in the SSOL Lab with professor Vikram Iyer. I also work with Sawyer Fuller in the Autonomous Insect Robotics Lab and Shyam Gollakota in the Networks & Mobile Systems lab. My research is focused on leveraging combinations of low-power actuators and the structural properties in systems, like the bistability demonstrated in leaf-out origami, to create insect-scale autonomous robots optimized for resource constrained applications. I utilize various Reinforcement Learning algorithms to simulate the locomotion of structures in open-source physics engines to discover energy-efficient control systems for structures with complex energy landscapes. I am a co-founder and the current co-President of AVELA (A Vision for Electronic Literacy & Access), as well as the co-founder and current Vice President of the UW Black Graduate Student Association (BGSA). I enjoy being a part of outreach efforts, and I aspire to help decrease the educational opportunity gaps currently present in the education system.

AVELA advances existing understandings of equity in CS/STEM education and careers by focusing on strategies for supporting and empowering underrepresented minority (URM) students as defined by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics: African American/Black, Hispanic American/Latine, and American Indian/Native. AVELA accomplishes its mission by targeting the improvement of student retention and post-graduation employment rates for URM students, while also focusing on unique outreach initiatives by leading multi-week classes, workshops, panels, keynotes, tutoring services, and other forms of community outreach while intentionally representing the populations we aim to support. AVELA also proactively collaborates with community partners to allow for more equitable, community-led change.

AVELA uses a novel strategy combining multiple evidence-based practices like a near-peer instruction model at multiple levels in which undergraduates teach K-14 students, and graduate student mentors support undergraduates. We will leverage the power of representative and culturally responsive teaching to maximize benefit for URM scholars and K-14 students. Our program is also unique for leveraging partnerships with student affinity groups to build a thriving and supportive campus community for URM students at UW. We couple these educational and community building strategies with scholarships to address financial needs. We will perform comprehensive evaluation of our work and if successful, we can establish strong evidence for our holistic method of improving educational and professional outcomes for pre-college and undergraduate URM students and demonstrate it can scale both in terms of number of students served and developing insights into establishing a long-term, more sustainable program.

As part of these projects, Kyle has partnered with WA MESA and with the nonprofit group, Hip Hop is Green, on Green Infrastructure Engineering projects. Check out their promotional video here.