Women in Engineering Day: Spotlight on Maria Telleria


June 23rd is International Women in Engineering Day, and we're celebrating by featuring some of the brightest in the field all week. Read on to learn more about Director of Engineering Maria Telleria.

What do you work on at Otherlab? I work for Pneubotics, which is a company making robots for the real world. This means robots that are light enough to be taken to the task and can deal with the uncertainty of the environment. We have developed a pneumatic robot that is light enough for me to carry yet can sand and perform other operations required in manufacturing and construction.

What attracted you to working in technology? It was very surprising to me how 50 years after the first industrial manipulators were put into the assembly line we still require people to perform incredibly dangerous tasks. Rather than continue trying to find a solution with the same tools, the Pneubotic technology presented a new way to try to solve the problem. That was very appealing to me, to take a new approach. This of course meant that a lot of hard challenges had to be solved, but that was incredibly exciting as well.

What is your process for developing designs/prototypes? Every design requires a slightly different process, but overall my approach to a problem is to define the specifics of what we are trying to solve. These may change as we learn more but writing down the requirements and discussing your assumption is a great place to start. From there we often look for what is the minimum test, prototype, or analysis we can conduct to answer what we don't know. This refines our specifications and the design progresses.

What are some of the challenges you've faced in your work and how did you go about solving these problems? On the technical side when developing a new technology you can find yourself wondering how to even start tackling a problem. It’s difficult when you can't think of a textbook with a similar problem or the design tools you have are optimized for different assumptions. In these cases I've found that making myself present and discuss the problem with colleagues often helps me see a way to tackle the problem. Having to explain the question forces you to think about analogies to the task at hand. You may have thought about how you can describe your fluids problem with an electrical analogy and then you realize there are resources that can help me solve my problem under its new framework.