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Best practices and teamwork for student competitions

Introducing the team – Part 2

Posted by Christoph Hahn,

This blog post is the second and final part introducing the MathWorks student competition team. We are 8 folks located in Boston (US), Cambridge (UK) and Munich (DE) with a key mission to equip student teams around the globe with software, training, and mentoring to tackle the same technical issues as professional engineers. Student competitions are often leading the way when it comes to new technologies, just look at the SpaceX HyperloopRoboCup or Formula Student Driverless competitions. Thus, we can spend our time working in trending areas such as robotics, unmanned vehicles, automated (and non-automated) driving cars.

Part one was introducing Swarooph, Lauren, myself and Helen. Today, Sebastian, Connell, Sarah and Sandeep will report what they are doing and why they think student competitions are a great place to be.

Sebastian

#TheROSBoss #RobotGuru #MrCastro #Moustache #CraftBeerAficionado

What is your role in the student competitions team? What competitions are you focusing on?

I am the technical lead for university level robotics competitions. Right now, I am focusing on RoboCup, which is a worldwide competition most famous for robot soccer. There are several other RoboCup leagues that deal with interesting topics such as search-and-rescue, human-robot interaction, pick-and-place, and multi-robot collaboration.

What big project are you currently working on?

My goal this year is to make robotics researchers aware of how MATLAB and Simulink can fit into their projects. Typically, MATLAB is associated with plotting and data analysis, but there’s a lot more to it. On one side, I will be showing how to simulate robots at the system level, with realistic physical elements. On the other side, I want to show the path from prototyping algorithms in MATLAB and Simulink to generating standalone code that lives onboard the robots. By “algorithms”, I mean a variety of areas including controls, supervisory logic, computer vision, and machine learning.

Which recommendation would you give students thinking about student competitions and career paths?

Joining a student competition is already a great start – I strongly believe in learning through practical experience. My biggest piece of advice is to talk to everyone on your team. In the past, engineering disciplines were much more separated. Nowadays, everybody needs to have a good understanding of entire systems, and everybody needs to know how to program. Knowing what your whole team does is a good way to venture outside your area of study and see what it takes to deliver a complete engineering product. Employers value versatility and a desire to learn; for example, a mechanical engineer who is not afraid to write some code or solder some wires.

Why do you like working in education and collaborating with student teams?

I have always been passionate about teaching, but at the same time I wouldn’t consider myself the most theoretical person. Working with student teams is a good balance of teaching and practice. If I am doing my job right, I am helping students set up software frameworks that let them focus on the design aspect of engineering. I also appreciate the opportunity to interact with students worldwide. It is a fantastic learning experience for me to connect with robotics researchers working on a multitude of challenging problems.

Fun Facts

  • I am a big fan of music and concerts of all types – especially heavy metal! \m/
  • I am one of the top 50 contributors in MATLAB Answers.
  • I grew up in Chile and Jamaica. While I love Boston, winter time still takes some getting used to.

Connell

#drones #uav #auv #iKeepMixingThoseUp #DroneRacing #UAVRockstar

What is your role in the student competitions team? What competitions are you focusing on?

I work on aerospace and unmanned vehicle competitions and I primarily focus on competitions run by RoboNation.

What big project are you currently working on?

I am working on developing technical training content for unmanned systems. This content will help you learn about how other teams in the competition are using MATLAB and Simulink as well as workflows used in the industry.

Which recommendation would you give students thinking about student competitions and career paths?

Being a Formula Student Alumni, I was team leader of Orion Racing India from the KJ Somaiya College of Engineering in Mumbai for the 2014 season, I can say with a conviction that no other class assignment or group project for a class will teach you to get things done like a student competition. Working with a group of people you quickly learn that the project is bigger than any single one of you and when the going gets tough you learn to stand by your team even if it means a few sleepless nights. Companies respect that. It shows them that you are willing to take on a challenge, work in a team and power through the tough times.

Why do you like working in education and collaborating with student teams?

I like working with university students simply because I am in the same age group, I am personally most comfortable in an informal environment and being informal with students helps them open up more and talk about their interests. (Plus, I hope to get invited to a couple of college parties along the way.)

Fun Facts

  • I like playing music with cover bands – I know all the lyrics to Don Mclean’s American Pie.
  • I have been a big Manchester United FC fan for over 15 years – I shaved my head bald when I was 8 years old to mimic David Beckham.

Sarah

#DrivesWithOneArm #BestCarDriverOfTheTeam

What is your role in the student competitions team? What competitions are you focusing on?

I handle marketing communications, logistics, and the legal process for sponsoring competitions in North America and work with the local marketing contacts in the worldwide offices to support competitions worldwide

What big project are you currently working on?

In the fall, approximately 200 students will travel to MathWorks headquarters to receive training from MathWorks and other sponsors of the EcoCAR 3 competition. There is a lot of planning and coordination that goes into making this event a success.

Which recommendation would you give students thinking about student competitions and career paths?

Do it! I only wish I had these opportunities or were aware of them. You can’t put a price on getting the hands-on experience student competitions offer. Learn as much as you can through these programs.

Why do you like working in education and collaborating with student teams?

I love the idea of being able to contribute to helping teams gain valuable skills that can help them get challenging jobs and be successful later in life.

Fun Facts

  • I don’t like tomato sauce. Go white pizza!
  • My dog thinks he is a human and acts accordingly.
  • I am missing a rib.

Sandeep

#robots #hardware #shapingTheFuture #JuniorBotGuy #VEXCoder

What is your role in the student competitions team? What competitions are you focusing on?

I am technical lead for K-12 student competitions like VEX, BEST and Zero Robotics. As a technical liaison, I provide technical guidance and support to teams that participate in MathWorks sponsored student competitions through technical presentations, online training sessions, and hands-on workshops.

What big project are you currently working on?

Designing training videos series for Mobile Robotics applications. Student competition teams will learn how to perform simple autonomous tasks like line following, path navigation and obstacle avoidance using the Model -Based Design approach with Simulink. Previously, two curriculum modules were developed working with external authors – Getting Started with Robotics using Arduino and VEX EDR.

Which recommendation would you give students thinking about student competitions and career paths?

Student Competitions (SC) expose students to the real-world problems and experience that they cannot get in a classroom. SC not only help them enhance their technical skills but also their interpersonal skills – leadership, project management, communication, relationship development and so on. SC teaches you how to fail and recover quickly each time from that failure.  It teaches not to be afraid to think out of the box or face failure.  These skills and experience make them ready for the real job in the future but also gives them a chance to evaluate different areas/fields and find the one suits them best.  Here is an article I wrote discussing more in depth on these points.

Why do you like working in education and collaborating with student teams?

SC team members are usually the most motivated and enthusiastic lot in a classroom. I feel inspired and energized when enabling the top future scientists and engineers with using MathWorks products. I see our future customers and decision makers in them!

Fun Facts

  • I have a 2.5-year old who calls me Mr. Robot!
  • I enjoy digital art and sketching during free time.
  • I love playing volleyball and cricket.

 

Now the team is completely introduced – for now. I will make sure to welcome newcomers as they arrive. Please let me know in case you want me to put you in contact with someone in the team.

Cheers Christoph

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