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Joshua Baker navigates ‘3-plus-2’ program on path toward engineering career

Joshua Baker

Joshua Baker has a passion for helping people live a more productive lifestyle. Following his UNCP career, he plans to transform that passion into a career in designing prosthetics.

Robotic prosthesis, to be specific.

His love for designing and building robots can be traced to his days competing in robotics competitions as a student at Smithfield-Selma High School.

“As a kid, I was infatuated with Star Wars. For our first robot, we built R2-D2 out of a trash can. It was incredibly fun. Since that point, I’ve enjoyed robotics. During one event, a little kid ran over and hugged R2-D2. It felt amazing to see him have that reaction over something I had done.”

Baker has his sights on designing robotic prosthetics at a Johns Hopkins University lab or a career with Open Bionics, a prosthetics company in Georgia.

“I want to change a person’s life for the better, and I know robotics is the way I can do that.”  

It was a statewide robotics competition that led Baker to UNCP three years ago. Since his sophomore year in high school, he has been visiting campus and participating in the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) competition, which typically attracts 30 teams from North Carolina, Georgia and Maryland.

While attending the FIRST event his senior year, he got a chance to hear from UNCP physics professor Siva Mandjiny, who was promoting the 3-plus-2 dual-degree engineering program, which gives students the opportunity to spend three years at UNCP and two years at NC State University. At the conclusion of the five-year program, participants will earn a bachelor’s degree in applied physics from UNCP and a bachelor’s degree in electrical or mechanical engineering from NC State.

For this aspiring robotics engineer, the 3-plus-2 track was music to his ears. To sweeten the pot, Baker learned UNCP offers the NC Promise Tuition Plan which reduces tuition to $500 per semester for in-state students.

Baker, a junior applied physics major, says he’s glad he chose UNCP and is excited for what the future holds as he prepares for the transition to NC State’s engineering program.

“I’m getting the degree I wanted, and I will get a second degree, all for less money,” he said.

Since enrolling at UNCP, Baker has been a familiar face at the FIRST competition, assisting teams from his former high school and helping the Admission’s Office promote the 3-plus-2 program to prospective students.

“I want to get as many people to see how good this program is compared to programs at other schools. My time here at UNCP has been great. I’ve enjoyed every single professor. It’s been a real good experience. Outside of my academic life, I’ve found a great group of friends and together we are working on different projects outside of class, including one project that reduces some environmental impacts to campus. We hope to present it to the chancellor.”