Robotics Startup

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Since July of 2016 I have worked for a company called Nova Dynamics, a robotics R&D lab in the Philomath Oregon. It's my first real Electrical Design job. :) Back in 2016, Phoenix Solar Racing wasn't going to be able to race and wasn't really going anywhere despite my struggle to get it off the ground. It was time be more selfish and consider my own future and started to look for a job.

All information concerning Nova Dynamics has been cleared for release by the owner

Finding an EE Job

Only a fews days after I decided to start looking for work, A former Solar Teammate of mine cued me in on a robotics startup that was taking job applications in an interesting way, all it said at the end of the Job listing was: "How to apply: telnet://"

It was a programming challenge to weed out the most unqualified: first you need to have the knowledge to know what to do with this... telnet://... address. Then A cheeky HAL9000 style computer prompt asked the user to fill a register with a very large list of prime numbers. A trivial few lines of code, the most difficult part was trying to deduce what language syntax it was looking for.

After completing the challenge I got a secret email address to send my resume to. I was only doing the challenge for fun at first, since the website did not list a job opening for Electrical Engineer. However I sent my resume (and a link for this website) to the email anyway.

The next day I got a call from the owner to see if I could make a Stereo Camera system for his robot. I told him I could, and I was soon hired. I never even had an interview besides a few questions over the phone... Having a website that displays details of my projects was one of the things I attribute being hired so smoothly. It was also clear he needed EE help ASAP.

What I Do At My Job

At Nova Dynamics I make it my responsibility to handle almost every aspect of the robot that involves electronics. Although I leave the software and firmware to my co workers, I often write demo software to show how the firmware should control the circuits I make.

I split my time working on the following things like so:

  • 10% Researching solutions to challenges. (ex. how can we measure 223 battery temperatures economically? How is it usually done in industry?)
  • 20% Designing Circuits
    • Research applicable circuit components.
    • Drawing readable schematics.
    • Simulating circuits in LTspice.
    • Going back to the drawing board because I missed one datasheet spec that makes the design impossible. >:(
  • 20% Laying out PCBs
    • and fighting with the CAD software.
  • 20% Assembling PCBs
    • Spreading solder paste
    • Placing SMD components
    • Reflowing the boards
    • Solding in though hole components
    • Repairing badly reflowed joints
    • Cutting traces and soldering in bodge wires.
  • 20% Writing Demo Code
    • Test the PCBs full functionality for hardware bugs
    • Maybe write C Libraries for interfacing with IC's
  • 10% Doing odd jobs
    • Robot Field Testing
    • Technical Research for my boss.
      • He often has new ideas for Nova research and development.
      • I vet the idea against physical reality, practicality, And the current state of the industry.