National Engineers Week - Celebrating our PFF Engineers
This week is National Engineers Week! This week is dedicated to ensuring a diverse and well-educated future engineering workforce by increasing understanding of and interest in engineering and technology careers. The engineers at PFF are the ones who make our visions for our robots come to life and we wanted to give them a special shout out and thank them this week (and always!) for all they do!
We asked a couple of our PFF engineers what they love about their work, what got them interested in engineering, and more. Hear more from Kevin, Software Engineer and Steve, Mechanical Engineer below:
Kevin: My favorite thing about engineering is being able to see something happen in the real world as a result of my work. As a software engineer, I can do the math, write the code, fix some bugs, and then watch the robot do something cool that it couldn't do before!
Steve: My favorite part of being an engineer is the ability to, well, make almost anything!
Arthur: There is no better feeling inside when you solve a problem. When you take on a challenge, it is an emotional ride for you and your team. Challenges help me grow technically, build stronger bonds with my team and provide me confidence that I can find ways to overcome difficulties.
Jean-Claude: My favorite part of being an engineer is developing products that improve the quality of life for people. This gives me a great sense of achievement and satisfaction.
Kevin: When I started at PFF, I was given a very high-level goal of working on gita's localization, and I had total freedom to read up on modern research, choose an implementation method, try different things, and over time come to a very effective result that I can be proud of. Developing a visualizer as I go has also been incredibly satisfying.
Steve: I am really fluid between different teams, so I love how I can work with a wide range of people with different skill sets to do something I would not be able to do myself!
Arthur: I get a chance to work with great teams on developing products in many different vertical markets. In the course of a day, I will work on 3 or 4 different projects and collaborate to find ways to innovate. I have the opportunity to influence our path in many areas and it is so rewarding to help people I consider to be more than just coworkers. We have a lot of laughs and care about each other's success.
Jean-Claude: Working with exceptional multi-disciplinary teams to build technology products that move the way people move.
Kevin: In high school, I participated in the FIRST Tech Challenge, in which I got to work with my peers to strategize the best way to tackle the game's different tasks each year, and then build and code a robot from scratch to accomplish our goals. This made me way more excited and passionate than any of my schoolwork, so I aligned the two and ended up here!
Steve: I always loved to make things with my hands ever since I was young, and I think it just trickled down from there.
Arthur: As a kid, I would take toys or furniture apart and try to see if I could create something better or even more innovative. I would try and try to come up with the next great invention but most of the time it looked like a Frankenstein monster. What I didn't know is that I was learning the basics of physics, thinking creatively and an ability to analyze what is in front of you. These fundamental skills just kept pushing me toward wanting to be an engineer.
Jean-Claude: I wanted to get the opportunity to solve problems, create and design things that really matter.
Kevin: I double-majored in Math and Engineering Physics at the University of Oklahoma, with a minor in Computer Science. I was also a member of Sooner Competitive Robotics for all four years! I then moved to Boston to attend Northeastern University's MS Robotics program.
Steve: I went to Brown University, and double majored in Mechanical Engineering and Computer Science.
Arthur: Prior to college, I did a lot of technical classes in electrical and mechanical systems. I went to Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston and focused the first 2 years continuing on the same path. I feverishly went after every class with a lab to get my hands into science. My last 2 years, I switched my focus toward electronics and a minor in computer programming. Electronics was starting to become more a part of people's lives and felt this was where the future of engineering was going. Everyone had a pager, some lucky few had a flip phone and dial-up internet was just incredible. I didn't want to miss that boat.
Jean-Claude: I studied computation, automation, networks, software and electrical engineering. My college was École Centrale d'Électronique in Paris
Kevin: Robotics is a field with a wide variety of challenges and potential! The field is new enough that even while working to apply certain algorithms or solve simple problems, I have the opportunity to do new things that haven't been done before!
Steve: It’s very difficult to find robots that could be used in non-industrial settings, and that comes with its own set of difficulties. Going through the process to make robots that can be used by just anyone is what excites me the most!
Arthur: A robot is a really complex symphony of various engineering working together for a purpose. It isn't always obvious, but looking at a robot, one might only see some vehicle moving. The gita robot is a complex driving and balancing system, with many sensors providing real time data, complicated electronic design, advanced software platform, an integrated cloud infrastructure and finally some of the most difficult mathematics solutions to follow a leader and make adjustments to how it moves. Working with a robot is some of the most difficult and rewarding challenges you get to work with.
Jean-Claude: After a complete innovative mechanical and electrical redesign, seeing gita getting smarter and doing more autonomous behavior.
Kevin: I like that we don't require a person to carry some kind of tracking beacon, but rather have the challenge of identifying them purely visually with our onboard sensors. Developing the structure for this has been a great foundation for more and more autonomous behaviors in the future!
Steve: I love how it self-balances and uses just two wheels to follow people around; it’s a very cool balancing mechanism and it allows gita to follow people extremely well.
Arthur: Working with a robot is fun but trying to do it in a way that it operates as a natural, thoughtless addition to our lives is the best part of my work. gita's goal is to just fit into someone's life and help to make it better. It is cool that it isn't there to replace or remove an activity in our daily routine. It really is that helping hand we need everyday in what we want to do. The technology we develop alone is rewarding but using it in a way to help us live healthier is the greatest satisfaction.
Jean-Claude: The coolest thing about gita other than following you everywhere you go is when gita goes through a door autonomously. So magical! and more to come.
Get the inside scoop from our engineers
A Q&A with Kevin, one of PFF’s robotics software engineers
Autonomous Behavior: Doors
How we developed this behavior and acquired its patent
Starting at $2475
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