Joey Kern. Photo courtesy of Jay VanRensselaer.

The Johns Hopkins men’s basketball team is currently in the midst of an exciting season. According to’s voting panel, the Blue Jays, who have amassed a 24-3 record, are the sixth ranked team in the country. Last weekend, Johns Hopkins beat Swarthmore College,’s top ranked team in the country, 73-71 on the final shot of the game to win the Centennial Conference postseason championship.

Up next for the Blue Jays is the first round of the NCAA tournament against Penn State-Harrisburg this Friday. Because of their strong season, the Blue Jays are one of just eight teams hosting an NCAA regional this weekend, meaning they’ll get to play both Penn State-Harrisburg – and if they win that game – their second round opponent at Goldfarb Gymnasium on the Homewood Campus.

A key member for Johns Hopkins this season has been Joey Kern, who is also pursuing an undergraduate degree in electrical and computer engineering. A junior guard from Norwalk, IA, Kern has started every game this season for Johns Hopkins. His minutes per game (28.9), and total number of steals (46) rank second most for the team, while his points per game (8.8) are third most on the team. Kern entered this season eleventh in team history in three-point percentage (.396) and twelfth in three-pointers made (110).

Ahead of Friday’s game, Kern took part in a Q&A that covered why he decided to pursue an ECE undergraduate degree, his thoughts on Johns Hopkins hosting an NCAA regional, and the similarities between his major and basketball.

Why did you decide to pursue an ECE degree?

Coming into college, I knew I wanted to pursue an engineering degree, but I wasn’t sure which area I wanted to get into. I was always interested in math and building things, and I liked that ECE gave me opportunities to problem solve. The skills I have acquired from two and a half years of ECE courses are definitely unique.

I like to think of ECE as being comprised of a select group of students who are up for unique challenges. I’m really happy with my decision, and I have made some of my best friends at Johns Hopkins through ECE.

Is there an ECE class, project, or experience that you have particularly enjoyed?

When I was a freshman, I had to build an elevator on a circuit board for my Digital Systems Fundamentals class. It was my second semester, and I had worked a little bit with circuit boards before, but not a lot. It was cool to see this toy elevator come to life from what I was doing on a circuit board. It gave me a lot of confidence that this was the major for me, and it felt like my first real experience with electrical engineering.

What do you hope to do after completing your undergraduate degree?

I’m leaning towards becoming a business analyst. I actually have a business analyst job already lined up for the summer, which I am excited for. It seems like the sort of position that combines the problem-solving skills from ECE with personal skills.

What has been the best part of this basketball season?

Getting to know our new guys has been a lot of fun. We have five freshmen, and six sophomores, so we’re young. It has been great to see them grow as players and have everyone come together as a group. Since our team is younger, I have also gotten to be in a little bit of a leadership role, which I was not expecting as a junior, but have thoroughly enjoyed.

Why has this team been able to do so well?

We have a lot of good talent, which definitely helps, but that doesn’t always correlate to winning basketball games. One quality our team has is not quitting. We have had a couple of games this year when we have trailed by a lot with not much time on the clock, but we have managed to find ways to win. That is what gets me excited for the tournament because everything is going to be close, but we have been there before, and believe we can pull out those types of games.

What has been the team’s signature win thus far?

Our most recent game against Swarthmore to win the Centennial Conference postseason tournament was pretty special. It was the best game we have played this year, and Swarthmore played really well. To win on a buzzer-beater does not happen often, plus, we were conference champions and got to cut down the nets. We won it my first year on the team, and it was great to experience that again.

How excited is the team to be hosting an NCAA regional?

It is cool because we knew we had a chance at this and used it as motivation so that our seniors could play in more home games. We wanted them to have that experience again before their careers ended. It is something we rallied behind, and in general, it is great to play in front of our fans in the NCAA tournament. My parents are coming from Iowa to watch. We all have friends who will be there. It is going to be exciting.

Are there any similarities between basketball and ECE?

The big similarity I see is the team aspect of both. We have a lot of team projects in ECE, and that obviously correlates to basketball. There have been times during those ECE projects when someone may struggle, but they can lean on their teammates, combine ideas, and find a solution. Putting time into those projects and then seeing something successful come from it is similar to working on different things during basketball practice with your teammates and then seeing them contribute to a win.