He was reading as a 1-year-old, attending his first college class at age 9, and now as a 14-year-old, he looks forward to graduating from Purdue University Calumet in a matter of days.
Gracious, well-adjusted and self-assured well beyond his not-so-considerable years, Tyamo Okosun of Michigan City has experienced no apprehension attending college at an age typically reserved for elementary and middle school years-that is, he says, with the possible exception of his first day.
“I had just turned 9, and I was kind of small compared to the other students,” he recalled. “I heard someone say ‘Is this some kind of joke’?”
Indeed it was not.
After beginning his higher education at Purdue University North Central in Westville in 2003, Tyamo transferred to Purdue Calumet in 2006 to study mechanical engineering. “I’ve always been interested in machines,” he said, “and my specific interest is aerospace.”
He looks forward to continuing his study in mechanical engineering and aerospace next fall as a Ph.D. student at Purdue’s West Lafayette campus. Accompanying him will be his father, T.Y. Okosun, a professor at Northeastern Illinois University, who home schooled Tyamo from the day he was born, if not before.
“My education has been a family affair,” said Tyamo, who will deliver the traditional Student Response on behalf of his graduating class during Sunday (5/17) Commencement Exercises at the Radisson Star Plaza Theatre.
“My dad strapped a contraption similar to a baby monitor onto my mother’s stomach and played back his recorded lessons when she was carrying me. After I was born, he taught me math, physics, chemistry, social sciences, languages and much more. He pushed me, but I have to give credit to my dad. Without him, I would not be where I am today. In nine years, he brought me up to the intellectual level of a college student.”
And an honor student at that!
“Tyamo has studied conscientiously and tried to absorb as much knowledge and new ideas as possible,” Purdue Calumet Professor and Head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering Chenn Zhou said. “He has demonstrated strong capability in independent thinking, as well as a solid background in mechanical engineering.”
He also has been an accomplished researcher. Among four research presentations he has made relating to aerodynamics, he delivered one at South Africa’s University of KwaZulu Natal. Additionally, he has been a Purdue Calumet supplemental instructor in general thermodynamics and has demonstrated leadership involvement in various student organizations, including a stint as vice president of Purdue Calumet’s American Society of Mechanical Engineers student chapter. He also is a member of the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics, a Purdue Calumet Honors Program student and was selected for inclusion in the 2008 edition of “Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges.”
Professor of Mechanical Engineering Harvey Abramowitz also credits him with having played a key role in Purdue Calumet’s participation in the annual NASA Great Moon Buggy Race. The national competition features vehicles designed by college students who must address various engineering challenges faced by the original Moon Buggy, a lunar roving vehicle American astronauts used on the moon during the Apollo space program.
“Purdue Calumet has been a good place for me,” Tyamo said. “The professors are very supportive. I like the class sizes. I discovered there are a lot of opportunities here.”
Another of his mechanical engineering faculty members, Yeow Siow, whom Tyamo calls his mentor, said, “Tyamo’s aptitude, dedication and maturity surpass his peers. I truly enjoyed mentoring him.”
Returning the favor, Tyamo, who also finds time to volunteer at a local public library and his family’s deck-building service for disadvantage families, has assumed the role of mentor for his 11-year-old brother, Anfani, also a mechanical engineering student at Purdue Calumet.
“I like to think I’ve tried to help him,” Tyamo said.