Friday, April 26, 2013

Q&A With Mechatronics Engineer Garrett Diulio

Garrett Diulio working on a large
custom actuated linear guide (belt driven).
Garrett Diulio joined the Bishop-Wisecarver Group earlier this year, and with him comes great enthusiasm for all things mechatronic related. As our Mechatronics Engineer, Garrett is focused on projects that require both mechanical and electronic expertise. Have a question for Garret? Leave a comment in the section below!

Question: Why did you want to be an engineer, and did you always know that this was something that you wanted to do, or was it a decision that emerged later?

GD: For me, it was a decision that came later in life, during my first semester of community college. I liked math and science, and fixing things. I’ve always had fun building things and taking things apart and putting them back together.

I started out as an electrical engineer, and I realized shortly thereafter that my true passion was in mechanical engineering. It is so broad, probably the broadest field of engineering. You are exposed to everything. There is no job a mechanical engineer couldn’t do.

Question: What are your earliest memories of putting things together?

GD: I remember trying to take apart a cell phone as a little kid.

Question: Where did you receive your education in engineering, and in what area did you specialize?

GD: I received a degree from UC Berkeley and my major was mechanical engineering. I had to do a senior project that was very similar to what I’m doing here at BWG; my senior project was on mechatronics. Mechatronics is just a fancy word for a combination of electrical, software, mechanical, and controls engineering.

Question: What kind of job experience did you have before joining the Bishop-Wisecarver team?

GD: I had a few internships. I had one internship where I did a lot of mechanical design, which I do a lot of here as well, although the industry was different (the medical field). It was a company that made heart pumps and I had to design the connectors in CAD.

I had another internship as an analyst reviewing bone strength data, and I would use finite element analysis in order to find the varied strengths from patients; usually older patients. The software was used to predict when patients could potentially fracture their hip or pelvis… they recently got FDA-approved.

I did have a third internship that are similar to my duties at Bishop-Wisecarver. My responsibility for that job was to figure out how to make the robot navigate autonomously through a maze. I focused on software and the electrical portions of the project. This was preliminary research for a firefighting robot.

Question: What advice would you give to a young person who is interested in an engineering focused career? Let’s say a middle school student or a high school student.

GD: Make sure you are very passionate about the aspect of engineering you select — it really makes a difference in engineering. You can really tell a difference between people who come to work just to earn a paycheck and those who truly love what they do at the office. In engineering, it’s the little details that matter the most.

Question: What's the most rewarding aspect of being an engineer?

GD: Finishing a project — the point at which all elements are functional and operating the way they’re supposed to... that's a really satisfying feeling.

Question: Technology plays a big role in the type of engineering that you do. Does it require much effort to stay abreast of recent technologies used in your area of expertise?

GD: Going back to how passionate you are — if it’s what you love, it’s pretty easy to stay on top of it all. You’ll be willing and have the desire to keep learning, and it will come naturally to you; second nature almost. I think the key is always trying new things.

Question: Which aspects of your role at Bishop-Wisecarver do you appreciate the most?

GD: The thing that I must focus on the most is planning and scheduling; ordering due dates and logistics. It is always critical to make sure that everything comes together in the allotted time frame. Without planning and preparation, you are doomed.

Question: What’s your favorite quote, or personal motto?

GD: “The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.” – Steve Jobs

Question: Do any of your hobbies outside of work relate to your job — any technical trades or anything having to do with engineering?

GD: I still work on my senior project sometimes. It’s kind of a hobby. I still work on it because I want to showcase it someday. You think you’re close to perfection, but really, there’s always more to refine.

Question: Where do you see yourself in five years?

GD: Within five years, I hope to have created and launched my own product line based on the concept of autonomous machinery.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Q&A with FIRST Coach Sherry Batin: "Have Patience."

The Bishop-Wisecarver family of companies is proud to be recognized as a FIRST Robotics Competition Diamond Supplier this year — we're even more proud of the great work accomplished by the teams we sponsor. Both the students and the mentors are an inspiration to us all, and it's an honor to share their story.

This week, we'd like to feature Sherry Batin, the assistant coach for the Fembots team #692, who was eager to share her experiences about FIRST with us: what compelled her to get involved and how she was able to fill the role of a FIRST coach.

A mechanical engineer by training, Sherry clearly had the technical skills for the position, but per the organization's founder Dean Kamen, FIRST is about "...more than just building a robot." See what Sherry had to say about what it takes to be a successful FIRST mentor!

Question: What made you decide to become a FIRST coach and what have you gained
from this experience?

SB: After some unusual circumstances that happened to the team the previous year, I wanted the
students on the team to know that there will always be someone there to support them. Really, I
did it for the students, because they needed someone to lead them, especially when they started
to think no one wanted to be their coach.

I didn't think I was grown up enough to lead a group of high school students and handle such a large endeavor, but they needed someone; I bit the bullet and took on this huge role. Although, I put myself aside to take on this big job for the team, and I gained a load of new experiences. I became more confident in myself and my abilities to lead people. I learned to not hesitate when planning needed to happen and that with a “grown up” role I should always be the first to act.

Question: We recognize that FIRST is not just about kids building a robot. What else does this competition mean for you as a coach? What else does this competition mean for the

SB: FIRST is a lot more involved than your typical after school club. So many things have to happen at the same time for a FIRST team to do what it needs to do, but the most important are the
relationships it creates because it's a chance for students to participate with professionals in their field (engineers or otherwise). It's where true mentorship happens. Students get this rare chance to hear about what these professionals did to reach the point that they're already at in their
careers while creating a relationship with these adults.

Question: As a FIRST coach, what have you learned about yourself, particularly in regards
to your strengths and weaknesses?

SB: I have learned a lot about my interpersonal skills. I have been told that I have this commanding air that the students find comfort in following; people management seems to come easily to me. However, I also think that my interpersonal skills need more work. I think that may be because I am neither a teacher nor a parent, but it something that I will continue to work on.

Question: Which aspect(s) of the FIRST Robotics Competition are you most excited about?

SB: I personally love the three days worth of competitions. I enjoy the fast paced atmosphere where
quick thinking and problem solving skills are most important. I also enjoy being able to see what
other teams have created to solve the same design problem presented to everyone at the beginning of January.

Question: What is your favorite aspect of being a coach?

SB: I love story time. I like sharing stories, stories that can inspire the students, anecdotes to share when things start to seem bleak and tiring. It doesn't matter if it's my own personal story or stories I've heard from other teams or people. I want my students to understand that as unique as this team can be, there are thousands of other teams, thousands of other students going through similar experiences. I want to remind my students that although our experiences are special to us, there are other examples and experiences that we can gain inspiration from.

Question: What advice do you have to give to future or other FIRST coaches?

SB: Have patience. As much as we adults want to do everything for the students; as much as it would save time and money to do it ourselves, that's not the point of this program at all. So FIRST coaches, have patience. Guide them through the process, but the important thing is that they get to the end result themselves.

Question: What do you think the future of FIRST is, and of STEM in general?

SB: I want to see FIRST continue to grow. I have been affiliated with FIRST since 2002 and it has grown so much already. I want to continue to be involved for 10 more years. As huge as this program is, the interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) is still small.

Too many people discover the magic of STEM later, and it would be amazing to see more young people be interested in STEM sooner. Somehow, young people need to stop being afraid of math and science...

Question: Is there anything else about FIRST that you’d like to share?

SB: FIRST gives you such awesome experiences, adults and students alike. I would encourage
anyone to become involved in FIRST.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

FIRST Team The Fembots Tour the Bishop-Wisecarver Facility

Part of the Bishop-Wisecarvear team guided the ever-enthusiastic Fembots, FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) Team 692, through our California-based facility last week. The all-girls team from St. Francis High School in Sacramento has an unending thirst for learning, and for, well, the FIRST, a non-profit robotics program geared at “…transforming our culture by creating a world where science and technology are celebrated and where young people dream of becoming science and technology leaders."

Those great words come from Dean Kamen, an American inventor and co-founder of FIRST.
Our Vice President of Manufacturing, Aldo DeAmicis, and our Product Manager, Brian Burke, led groups through the facility, describing products, processes, and equipment.

We caught up with the Fembots after their tour to hear what they were thinking and to answer any of their follow-up questions. The post-tour discussion began with technically-oriented questions that ranged from curiosity about the manufacturing floor to more FIRST-geared discussion with Pamela Kan, our company president.

 “A lot of people are really surprised when we tell them that we’re girls and we’re participating in FIRST,” one of the team members from the audience explained to Kan.

Kan nodded in agreement: “Girls can solve problems too,” she noted, “Oftentimes in ways that are much more different than men. Girls are creative, too.”

Kan then posed several questions to the Fembots team.

“Did you like learning tactically, in a hands-on type of environment?”

A series of “yeahs” emerged from around the room, with many team members nodding in agreement.

“What did you like best about FIRST?” Kan ventured.

“I like how you learn all of this stuff,” one student offered.

One of the team members raised her hand and offered her answer to Kan’s question.

“My favorite thing about FIRST is that I was able to write my college essay about being on a FIRST team. Because of that essay, I got a lot of personal responses to my college applications, and I also ended up getting a lot of scholarships. Actually, I got into my top choice school — U.C. Davis.”'

Kan nodded, smiling. “And this is why we believe in the event,” Kan later shared. “It is because of the infectious hope it offers and the starting point it provides for kids who want a future in science, technology, engineering, and math.”

Kan concluded the Q&A session by saying, “My favorite thing about FIRST is that you do everything in teams — because in work, at a job, you work in teams. FIRST is just like the real world, and it’s tough to get that type of hands on education anywhere else.”