Time seems to move differently for some people. In the case of Ian Ho, who graduates in May with a degree in mechanical engineering, it ticks by in hundredths of a second, which may explain how he manages to do so much.
Ho grew up in Blacksburg, left high school early and took the GED when he was 15, and earned as associate’s degree from New River Community College. After transferring to Virginia Tech, he walked on to the university swim team, took part in the 2016 Olympic trials, and set school records in the 50 free and 200 medley relay.
“I was a walk-on my first year,” said Ho. “I didn’t know if I wanted to pursue swimming heavily, so the before I started here I talked to the coach who let me go through summer training with the team and compete in a meet. He gave me a spot on the team.”
At the end of his first year, he also received a scholarship. As a division I NCAA athlete and a mechanical engineering major, Ho had to find the time to do everything. NCAA rules mandate the limit of training for student athletes is 20 hours.
“We did 20 hours, so swimming was my part-time job, but it was good because the coaching staff knows we are student athletes and they stress the student first, and then the athlete. Still, between swimming and engineering, there’s not always a lot of time for sleep, so every now and then you pull an all-nighter. It’s not the end of the world.”
Ho is a bit of a Renaissance man. In addition to study and sport, he plays the violin and he’s the sub-team lead for modeling and simulation on the Baja competition team. When he was about five, he gave horse-vaulting a try and decided that doing gymnastics on a moving horse wasn’t his calling. He started competitive swimming in summer leagues when he was 6. Since then, he made the cut-off for eligibility for the Olympic swimming trials by one one-hundredth of a second, and at the 2016 U.S. Olympic trials he placed in the low 30s out of more than 100 of America’s fastest swimmers.
Now he’s preparing to get his master’s in mechanical engineering in the Design, Research and Education of Additive Manufacturing Systems (DREAMS) lab under Chris Williams, associate professor and John R. Jones III Faculty Fellow.
“Additive manufacturing really appeals to me,” said Ho. “The promise of a technology that’s so young and the concept of taking the manufacturer out of the equation and going straight from design to a finished product is so cool. I love to design and make things.”
As graduation nears, it seems Ho might finally slow down and start living his life in minutes and hours instead of fractions of a second. But if you think that, you’d be wrong. There is another year of eligibility left for Ho, and in April he competed in the 61st Festival of Sport, Long Course Swimming Time Trial in Hong Kong. Because of his dual-citizenship status (both Ho’s parents are natives of Hong Kong), Ho has yet to determine if he wants to take part in the 2020 Olympics trials for Hong Kong.
“We’ll see,” is all Ho will say of the future, not wanting to waste a single minute.
Written by Rosaire Bushey