Lisa Winter has expertise in designing and building robots and hardware. With over 20 years of experience, she took part in numerous competitions and was named one of the top 25 women in robotics by Robohub. She is currently working as a mechanical engineer at a small start-up, where she builds camera and sensor systems to make construction sites safer. She is also educating and inspiring girls and young women to go into STEM. Lisa shares the most important facts and figures – and what fascinates her about this topic.
Robotics is a Field for Generalists and Specialists at the Same Time
I’m not sure that everyone knows that, but when you want to get into robotics you really have to have your hands in every single ‘bucket’. You need to be able to work on different levels using various abilities, for example, you need to be able to build, you need logical thinking and a mechanical set of skills. Moreover, you also have to understand aesthetics and have the sense for design. It’s also crucial to be aware of the business side, like sponsorship and marketing. When it comes to robotics in general, you really have to know a little bit about everything! It’s not as simple as getting a degree in robotics and mechanical engineering and then you’re set. It’s common that when you work for someone like NASA on a huge team that everyone works on a subsection of the robot, and it’s possible to have expertise on just one topic. However, in smaller companies you really need a great amount of knowledge on various levels. But it can also be an advantage, as you don’t need to have a degree in every specific section, the area of robotics is very broad, so you can find something that interests you.
The Gender Shift – More Women in Robotics
Even 20 years ago, there weren’t that many robotics start-up companies. There was also a lot of gender inequality and lack of trust in what women can do. This, however, shifted. Women are given much more respect in robotics than before. Apart from the trust, there are also more opportunities and availability for women to get out there and be public and show what they are capable of. Moreover, there is more encouragement and, as a result, a lot more women are getting into robotics, as they reach more visibility. Having the STEM movement is really showing girls what options they have. I’ve seen an explosion of how many young women are starting to choose science or engineering.
Finding the Niche
I would say, that the most important thing in order to succeed is to find your niche and work towards it. Robotics is so broad, the topic covers much more than we can imagine. We are basically helping humans in every part of life, whether it is in space or vacuuming their homes. Whatever it is that you are interested in, find your ‘thing’ and really work with it. Some sort of mechanical degree would be helpful in order to succeed, but experience is even more valuable. There are many opportunities out there, for example meet-ups can be very helpful. Attending events and listening to others talk about their work in the same industry is perfect for research. I strongly believe that you don’t need a university degree for everything that you want to go into, a lot of it is hands on experience, networking and just listening to others who have expertise and a lot of practice. Also, use the tools around you – with the internet there are unlimited resources with which one can learn!
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