- By Adero Mandala, Graduate of the Gilman School Class of 2017, Baltimore, MD
For two weeks I was exposed to the life of a person that works for a startup Robotics company called LocoRobo. As an intern, I was given the opportunity to experience the different stages of a product from engineering to sales. My assigned tasks included programming, assembling, marketing and demonstrating the robots to prospective customers.
Ever since I was introduced to the educational program that LocoRobo had to offer including the LocoXtreme robot, I was in awe of how they were able to explain the intricacies of Python coding with such ease. I was not completely oblivious to coding and programming robots to perform certain tasks. I was very familiar with GUI block programming because I had taken a robotics class as a freshman in my high school. I was conscious of the more complex languages that people of this profession were using and was completely intimidated by the seemingly infinite lines on the computer screen that looked as if they did not make any sense -- but I knew that there was some method to the madness. The educational program that LocoRobo has created is significantly better than the one that was used in my school and I am glad that I was able to assist in its development.
I want to become an engineer because they are the ones who create and design everything that we see and use everyday. During my two weeks with LocoRobo, I was able to experience working on the engineering side of a product by soldering and assembling the LocoXtreme robots as well as programming them. Before I worked for LocoRobo, my soldering ability was not very good, but after they taught me the correct technique my skills improved greatly. I enjoyed assembling the robots because I could see how the robots were made and that I could say that I helped make them. The programming aspect was frustrating at times, but once I got the robot to do what I intended it was very satisfying.
In order to understand the product and educational program that LocoRobo was offering, I had to become a student and learn. I watched many of the tutorial videos that are used to teach students how to program the LocoXtreme robots. Despite the videos being very brief, they clearly explained how to do specific things with the robot such as moving forward, rotating, and using sensors to avoid obstacles. I had used the GUI block coding language before coming to LocoRobo, and now I am actually able to successfully complete tasks using Python code. I was only able to do this because of the simplicity of the GUI coding and how LocoRobo coding platform allows the GUI to be converted into Python in real time. This aspect of the program, called "live coding", is what I wish that my class in ninth grade had, because I would be a lot more proficient in coding now that I am graduating.
I also learned a lot about lead generation, which is an important marketing strategy of a startup business like LocoRobo. Advertising the product is just as important as the product itself. I gained a lot of respect for people who do this for a living because it is not easy doing tedious and repetitive work such as finding potential customers’ contact information and organizing a spreadsheet with a seemingly infinite number of rows. Something that I had to keep in mind was that in order for the company to succeed, this task had to be done correctly by someone. Although I may have not enjoyed this part of my internship, I learned a lot from this experience including that this particular aspect of a business is not for me. I am glad that I was able to explore different careers within my internship and discover what type of work is not for me. This is as important as discovering what one loves to do when preparing to go to college and choose a career.
I was given the opportunity to take what I learned and present the program to schools in the Baltimore City area. This was not a typical assignment for an intern, as this is an assignment that an experienced employee of the company would be given. I started by writing a professional email in order to catch the eye of a potential customer and communicate what exactly I was offering them. Fortunately, I was successful at getting the interest of various schools’ teachers and connecting them with LocoRobo. Part of why I was successful was that I was able to leverage my unique perspective as a student and articulate how I would have benefitted if this educational program had been in place at my school. Seeing and learning from the LocoRobo Academy lessons first hand also contributed to my ability to win the interest of a potential customer. I gladly accepted the challenge and it was very rewarding to see not only that the product that I was pitching was one of quality, but that the company took a risk and entrusted me with an important job that I was able to deliver.
Not many people will get the chance to work in a startup company like LocoRobo and I am grateful that I am one of the few. My favorite part about spending a number of days working for LocoRobo was working with the robots and my hands. I learned how to initiate communication between the company and a client, solder, and to code in Python. I know that some of these skills, if not all, will be used in the future as I am pursuing a career and this is why I am glad I took advantage of this opportunity.
Most startup companies do not live long, but I can confidently say that LocoRobo will because of how ambitious they are as a company. With the opportunity to be at the side of the CEO of LocoRobo for a lot of the time, as well as other members of the company, I was able to see the several different projects that were being worked on simultaneously, instead of just trying to perfect one product. This is not what I expected at all, but is something that I will not forget because one day I hope to be the CEO of a company on the rise.