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New country, new degree, new beginnings

October 09, 2014
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By Caitlin Dawson

“I have come so far, but my story is only beginning,” says Carlos Diaz, who is graduating with a master’s degree in engineering science.

 Diaz and his wife Caren, both experienced engineers, emigrated from Venezuela in 2011.

“The prospects in Venezuela are very limited given the economic and political situation,” says Diaz, who owned a quality-control engineering business there for more than a decade.

“It’s very difficult to sustain a business because of the country’s economic policies. We felt Canada could give us the opportunities we deserved.”

Embarking on the 7,000-kilometre journey to Vancouver was a leap of faith for the couple.

“I was naïve about Canada before we moved here,” he says. “We were very lucky to find such a nice place —the weather, the city—everything. ”

Caren quickly found work at an oil valuation company, while Diaz, who holds an undergraduate degree in engineering and a postgraduate degree in business management, embarked on his master’s at SFU. Returning to school later in life was not without its challenges, says Diaz, who recalls the struggle to stay up late at night to work on projects while his younger counterparts comfortably burned the midnight oil.

But perseverance won out and he completed his master’s in robotics and computer vision under the supervision of professor Shahram Payandeh.

For his thesis project, Diaz developed a wearable “smart” glove that gives tactile feedback through vibrations to help blind people sense distance from physical objects and obstructions. This innovative wearable technology could potentially replace traditional walking canes.

Soon after completing his thesis defense, Diaz secured an engineering job with a Vancouver-based automation company.

“We use image processing to ensure quality control on a range of products,” he says. “I have fun in the lab, testing equipment to inspect product features—I love improving processes and I love technology.”

Diaz is now a Canadian permanent resident—his application was accepted the same week he completed his defense.

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