Jing-Tao (Tommy) LIU

Jing-Tao (Tommy) LIU

Engineer / Designer in SF Bay Area, California


Tommy Liu is a full-stack software engineer and designer with over seven years of industry experience in web development, UI/UX design, and hardware prototyping. His areas of interest mainly lie in Human-Computer Interaction, Educational Technology, Robotics, and their intersections.

Tommy began his gap year journey in 2013 when he opted out of college education and instead worked full-time as a software engineer intern at Opera Software after graduating from high school. In 2016, he co-founded an EdTech startup named CocoRobo, where he served as CTO. During his time at CocoRobo, he led the development of software tools and hardware products adopted by over 500 K-12 schools, enhancing student engagement and problem-solving skills in STEM learning. He returned to college in 2021 and is currently completing his CS degree at UIUC, while also maintaining an affiliation with the Pixel Playgrounds Lab at the College of Education.


2021 — Now
B.Sc. at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Champaign, IL, USA

Major in Computer Science,
Minor in Electrical Engineering

Work Experience

2021 — Now
Champaign, IL, USA

Pixel Playgrounds Lab (pixelplaygrounds.org/) is a research lab at UIUC, focusing on the intersection of physical spaces, information technology, and people to support collaborative learning. I am collaborating with Prof. Mike Tissenbaum and his current Ph.D. student, Casey Smith, on an educational technology research project known as REACH (Remote Embodiment for Augmented Collaborative Help). REACH involves a low-cost projector-camera system designed to assist K-12 students with remote interactive learning, allowing users to share gestures and workspace artifacts remotely, facilitating real-time interactions. My primary responsibilities include:

• Conducting research and development to eliminate visual echoes in the projector-camera system through an efficient, low-cost image processing algorithm using OpenCV and Numpy.
• Developing a real-time video calling backend utilizing UDP/WebRTC protocol via AWS services and Twilio Video SDK.
• Building and expanding a cloud infrastructure that facilitates remote access to deployed devices for debugging and on-site data collection.

2016 — 2021
Hong Kong

CocoRobo is an EdTech company that I co-founded with Dr. Tony Haiyang Xin in 2016. Based in Hong Kong and Shenzhen, we provide a one-stop solution for STEAM education, including software services, hardware products, and curriculum design.

During my time at the company, we:
• Secured two rounds of angel funding (totaling approximately HK$ 6M)
• Collaborated with over 500 K-12 schools, embedding our solution into their STEAM classrooms
• Partnered with the Hong Kong Education Bureau and National Institute of Educational Sciences in China to incorporate our product and curriculum into workshops and textbooks

My responsibilities primarily included:
• Building and managing an R&D team of 10 people consisting of engineers and designers from scratch
• Developing software tools that incorporated the project-based learning methodology, assisting over 20K educators and students in better conducting CT (computational thinking) teaching and learning
• Designing and prototyping two sets of patent-pending IoT and AI hardware products that were used by over 500 K-12 schools in Hong Kong and Mainland China, including circuit evaluation and firmware development
• Engineering interactive hardware projects relevant to music, lighting, robotics, and artificial intelligence for education purposes to secure important partnerships (e.g., Tencent & Google Hong Kong) in workshops and exhibitions
• Promoting our one-stop solutions and manifesto to the public by giving talks to teachers and engineers in the Education industry across Hong Kong (e.g., Google) and Mainland China (National Institute of Education Sciences)

2019 — 2020
Hong Kong

This is a project involved in a company-university collaboration program between CUHK and CocoRobo LTD.

• Led a group of 3 undergraduate students in the department to build a web app for K-12 users to learn how machine learning work through a visual programming environment
• Conduct team meetings on a bi-weekly basis, helping students to solve ongoing issues and discussing new features
• The project was given the Final Year Project Awards for the 2019-2020 semester

2013 — 2014
Software Engineer Intern at Opera Software
Beijing, China


Shenzhen, China

Gave a presentation about how I implemented Python and MicroPython to create a series of software programming environments and hardware platforms, including visual block programming, edge computing, computer vision, and model training.