As the summer comes to a close, we are happy to share some of our Jumpstart student’s experiences and accomplishments. The reflections from these Jumpstart students reinforces the need for these types of programs and we’re grateful to the participating companies for their hospitality, opening their doors to our students, working with and mentoring them, treating them as valued employees, and giving them meaningful work and experience that inspire their futures.

The goal of the Jumpstart program is to encourage and empower diverse high school girls to pursue careers in robotics and promote the diversity of the robotics workforce by giving them a solid foundation of technical skills as well as a  professional network to give them the confidence and support they need to pursue a career in the tech field.

The Cohort 2 program curriculum ran from January to May 2022, every Saturday and through the February school vacation.  Students’ coursework included design, fabrication, and coding as well as programming around soft skills, networking and working in a professional environment. 

La Fondation Dassault Systemes US Foundation provided support for our Cohort 1 & 2 through 2 grants. US Foundation President, Deborah Dean, was on site to congratulate the students for completing the five-month curriculum during our May 2022 celebration.

Mass Tech Collaborative also supported the program for a second year, providing stipends to the students who completed the program.

At our May celebration the students had the following to say:

It is important for fellowships like this to exist because it created a space for women of color to bond over their knowledge of STEM. Together, this cohort got over their shyness and worked as one unit to successfully complete a rigorous program.”  – Hermione  

Entering the professional world is not easy, but this program has worked with us to make this path a lot easier….MassRobotics have brought together an amazing program that gives us, young women the opportunity and support to enter this field in which we are underrepresented.” – Tairine  

We gathered for a final “reunion” session in August, after the completion of several internships to share what the students accomplished. Here are some highlights:

Hermione (The Noble and Greenough School) and Tairine (Boston Latin Academy) at GreenSight designed and built a robotic soft jellyfish they named “Shelly”.  They shared their experience with other cohort 2 members with the grand finale of Shelly swimming in the tank.

Read more in the GreenSight Blog post here.

Fiorella (Cohort 1) and Bernisha (Cohort 2) enjoyed internships at Autonodyne.  This was Fiorella’s second year at Autonodyne and she showed Bernisha the ropes.

Fiorella says, “this experience gives you a great sense of responsibility and what the workforce is all about.”  She goes on to speak about her first and second year as an intern at Autonodyne, 

My first summer at Autonodyne, I got to be there firsthand when they piloted a drone, boat, submarine, and a rover at the same time through one tablet. I also got to help repair/improve the boat, soldier boards, and had some CAD projects. This summer I understood more about the company’s product, how to connect and set up the radios of the drones and worked on CAD projects as well. One of the projects I worked on, along with two other interns, had to do with CADing, 3D printing, and later flight testing a 3D printed “grenade. Through this summer and last summer, I was to see how the different teams at Autonodyne come together to create and improve their product: from the software team developing the app to the Systems Engineers with their flight testing and regression testing protocols and everything in between.”  Fiorella will return to UMass Amherst as a Sophomore studying Mechanical Engineering.

Bernisha, a rising senior at Academy of the Pacific Rim, and part of the Jumpstart Cohort 2 was happy to learn from Fiorella. 

“Working at Autonodyne was an awesome experience. I got to enhance my 3D modeling skills….  I honestly think this is an experience that will stay with me through out my college application process and my life.” – Bernisha

Skylar spoke about her daily tasks at Activ Surgical where she interned daily from 9:00a.m. – 3:00 p.m. throughout the summer.  She writes, “The majority of my projects revolved around me using Solidworks to design parts for various projects that were happening. My first project was working on designing a rotator that would be attached to a mount that would allow a laser to rotate. This was one of my favorite projects because later on the part that I had designed was used in an animal lab(which was conducted to test their (Activ Surgical) equipment.”

Skyler goes on to speak highly of the culture at Activ and the overall impactful experience.  “I’ve learned so much through this internship and I’ve gotten to have a glimpse into the biomedical/biotech field(which is an awesome field!). As a result of this internship I feel that I have not only become better at Solidworks but also with communication and assertiveness. The environment in the office was laid back but productive and through this internship I’ve met some really kind, smart, and fun people. Everyone in the office is so approachable and the office having an open concept with little walls really adds to this. A big shout out goes to MassRobotics for giving me an opportunity like this and teaching me applications like Solidworks which has really helped me to have a sort of foundation when going into Activ Surgical.

Aurora Flight Sciences provided internships for Shreya and Jaiden.  There they learned about aircraft and flying through a MIT Open Courseware and began to learn some basics about AI/ML (Artificial Intelligence / Machine Language). 

Shreya writes, “Our main project, however, was a proof-of-concept project using the most recent (May 2022) release of the ROS 2 (the open-source robotic operating system) relating to some research they were doing.   As part of that exercise – I was able to go through the various stages of an engineering project, which included understanding the problem, defining and scoping it, coming up with possible approaches and solutions, proposing a possible approach with justifications, and then coming up with implementation approaches & steps, and to finally implementing it & giving a formal presentation my department and responding to questions regarding my work.” Jaiden says, “ Interning at Aurora was an experience like one I have never had. I got to build so many relationships with great people. Interning at Aurora I got to learn more than just technical skills but also life skills. I also got to see what the engineering industry is really like.”

Thanks to all who contributed to making our first two Jumpstart cohorts a success!