By Molly Loughman
Michael and Nicholas Forsyth of Acton mirror more than each other’s appearances – the identical twins, after five years sharing the same classes, textbooks, and college commute, recently graduated with master’s degrees from UMass Lowell and with plans to pursue careers in robotics.
After graduating from Acton-Boxborough Regional High School in 2012, the Forsyth twins, the oldest of 12 brothers and sisters, lead their family in pursuing a UMass Lowell education. As undergraduates, both double-majored in electrical engineering and computer science. After another year of classes, both earned diplomas last May through UMass Lowell’s bachelor’s-to-master’s program.
“How we got into the field of electrical engineering was [at ABRSH], we excelled in math there. We found we really liked being hands-on and building things and developing it. We also got interested in programming hardware [at ABRHS],” said Nicholas.
Michael explained UMass Lowell provided more co-op and research opportunities at an affordable price compared to other schools. In addition, UMass Lowell is undergoing building and technological upgrades. Throughout college, the twins commuted from Acton to Lowell.
The twins’ younger brothers Arick, a junior, and FitzAnthony, a sophomore, are both UMass Lowell Honors College students majoring in chemical engineering. Other siblings are planning to attend UMass Lowell.
Being twins out of a dozen children at home, the twins admitted they did not grow up accustomed to doing homework at home. As the oldest, the brothers were often responsible for watching and transporting their siblings after school. Aside from helping to rear their younger siblings, Michael and Nicholas share a fascination for virtual and augmented reality. As undergrads, the twins re-started the university’s Game Development Club together.
″[Video game development] is kind of this way for you to be very creative and develop what you want in a fun manner, so it never gets boring and you’re always engaged in seeing its continuation,” said Nicholas. “We both had the same interests. We both liked to play video games and computers when we were young. When we grew up, we both liked problem solving and mathematics, we were very good at it and we were always very competitive. It was just kind of a natural progression.”
“When you’re raised the same way for so many years and have the same experiences and go to the same places, you tend to think the same a lot,” said Michael. “Occasionally we’ll have the exact same worded response to somebody and we’ll say it at the same time.”
With a friend working for iRobot, the Forsyth twins are interested in testing and developing robotics after college.
“We like the physical building of the hardware and drawing the circuits and connecting and actually having a physical impact. And we also like knowing how to code and affect that physical object, so robotics falls into that nice category where it overlaps,” said Michael.
The twins recalled time spent inside UMass Lowell’s Mark and Elisia Saab Emerging Technologies and Innovation Center, an 84,000-square-foot research and development facility on campus, home to cutting-edge research in a variety of science and engineering disciplines, including nanotechnology, nanomedicine, molecular biology, plastics engineering and optics.
The hands-on education UMass Lowell included co-ops – Michael at AutoLiv in Lowell and Nicholas at Mercury Systems in Andover. The brothers each won dean’s scholarships and co-op scholarships, which paid for them to work together on transistor research in Professor Martin Margala’s electrical and computer-engineering lab the summer after their freshman year.
One of the biggest challenges the duo faced during their college career at UMass Lowell was that after earning their bachelor’s degree, they both had a strong foundational knowledge of the field, but did not study enough electrical engineering or computer science specializations --the reason they earned their master’s.
Sharing the exact same classes made studying easier, the twins admitted. Although they are occasionally apart to do their own thing, for the most part, the twins can be found in the same spot. Although the brothers recommend UMass Lowell for electrical engineering and software development students, they are quick to credit their high school experience.
″[ABRHS] has definitely been a key to our success,” said Nicholas.
“The first year of college was a bit of a breeze coming from [ABRHS]. It’s definitely a good school to go to prepare you for college,” said Michael.