beyond high school: mapping out the future with collaborative robots

in meet the makers by Jeff Green

Sasha Wilkinson shows kids how to train Sawyer, one of the collaborative robots from Rethink Robotics, at the 2016 Robot Zoo in Cambridge, MA.

How do you figure out where your interests will take you five years down the road when your days consist primarily of high school classes? For Sasha Wilkinson, it’s by working in his spare time here at Rethink Robotics alongside engineers, operations people and collaborative robots.

Over the past year Sasha has had the opportunity to gain experience in various capacities within Rethink Robotics, from helping to develop, prototype and test devices for the factory of the future to building tools in order to automate IT infrastructure. For one project he designed, built and programmed control circuits that let us automate equipment working with the robot. For another project he designed parts in SolidWorks and then worked in our machine shop to build the items and create fixtures, which have been used at trade shows for product demonstrations. And with our customer support team he produced training materials for our cobot users. Sasha also gave young kids a chance to see how collaborative robots work at the Cambridge Science Festival & Robot Zoo (pictured above), helping to fuel an interest in STEM at an early age.

Sasha Wilkinson works with Sawyer, one of the collaborative robots from Rethink Robotics, at GE's Brilliant Tailgate event at Boston College prior to the Clemson football game.

In partnership with General Electric, a small crew of Rethinkers attended GE’s Brilliant Tailgate event at Boston College prior to the BC vs. Clemson football game. The goal was to show college students how jobs in engineering frequently involve working with cool machines and advanced robotic technology. Sasha’s role at the event was to train a Sawyer cobot to perform various tasks and demonstrate to attendees just how easy it is to operate a collaborative robot.

While he’s had a chance to explore the inner workings of the business here at Rethink, at home he loves to tinker on projects with his father and make what he can out of just about anything that’s available. “We built an aerial photography rig that attaches to a kite with tilt controls. And I just finished building a racing drone a few weeks ago. We also made a drawing robot made up of a two-axis platform with a pen. We’re still trying to finish that, actually.”

Sasha, whose main area of interest is computer science, has some advice for parents of curious and innovative kids. “Let them experiment. Try new things. It might not always work out, but having the freedom to experiment is valuable. Also, get them a computer but don’t necessarily watch what they’re doing on it all the time. Give them tools and toys like a robotics kit…LEGO Mindstorms or if they’re older get them Arduino or Raspberry Pi and just watch what happens.”

High school student Sasha Wilkinson along with Sawyer, one of the collaborative robots from Rethink Robotics.

We wish Sasha the best of luck in the coming year as he makes the move from high school to college. In the mean time, we hope he continues to gain experience in other areas of the company over the next few months and we encourage others to do the same. The exposure can help in so many ways as students wrestle with what courses to study, types of schools to apply and ultimately what to pursue as a career. And for us, we’ve had the pleasure of working with a bright, enthusiastic and motivated young man who helped us out in so many ways.

For more headlines, videos and news about collaborative robots and manufacturing automation, drop by Cobot Central. Also, subscribe above to receive the next Cobot Recap and other blog post alerts delivered right to your inbox.



About the Author

Jeff Green

I'm Jeff Green, senior content and social media strategist at Rethink Robotics. When I'm not socializing Sawyer and Baxter, our smart, collaborative robots, I'm usually caught up in the home tornado, also known as my three kids. Love them, my wife, old-school Chinese food, movies, and of course game-changing technology.

3 comments on this article

Barbara L McCombs January 27, 2017 at 8:48 pm

Great post, Jeffrey!

Jeff Green

Jeff Green January 27, 2017 at 8:59 pm

Glad you enjoyed it, Barbara. Thanks very much.

BabyBoomerWriter June 16, 2017 at 3:42 pm

This is about one young person’s “internship” at a Rethink Robotics, but you never say how he got it. That’s what parents want to know. Moms and Dads with curious kids would love to give their STEM sons and daughters such great opportunities. Robots firms that cycle high school “interns” as part of giving back to the community are fostering more interest in their field.

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