Hot Young Engineer Takes On Facebook, Self-Driving Bikes At MIT And Sustainable Energy
The student engineer worked for Facebook in Silicon Valley
Self-driving bikes, Facebook, Silicon Valley: Andrew Andrade has a CV most engineers would kill for.
He is about to begin his fourth and final year of mechatronics engineering at Canada’s University of Waterloo and has already worked for Facebook in San Francisco, developed autonomous vehicles at MIT in Singapore, and founded PetroPredict, a tech start-up for the oil and gas sector.
His next venture? An electrical energy storage system to wean the world off harmful fossil fuels.
What excites you most about engineering?
It provides an opportunity to change the world. I think of engineering as using science, math and imagination to create art. By creating art, I mean coming up with seemly simple yet functional solutions to complex and difficult problems.
For me, engineering is about solving the problems, needs and demands that exist in society. Studying engineering gives you the tools you need to make things happen.
While technology cannot solve all of society’s problems, it can be a tool to solve big issues in areas such as energy, communications, transportation, finance and healthcare.
How was PetroPredict founded and what are your goals for the business?
I came up with the idea for PetroPredict through a talk by Larry Smith, an economist and professor at University of Waterloo.
His talked sparked the idea that I can use knowledge of data analytics and machine learning to build tools to help engineers make better decisions in the oil and gas industry.
Our goal is to create technology which enables engineers and other knowledge workers in the oil and gas industry to optimize energy production and make better decisions.
We deployed a pipeline risk modelling tool for a multi-billion dollar international oil company and currently we are working on applications for artificial intelligence and predictive analytics in the petroleum industry.
Tell us something people don’t know about working at Facebook.
While there are lots of stories of crazy perks….Such as meeting celebrities....Facebook believe it or not hires a significant number of hardware engineers [as well as software engineers].
Facebook not only designs and manufactures its own hardware, which runs in its data centers, but it takes the lean methodology of hypothesis-driven experimentation and applies it to hardware. This means the really awesome part about working at Facebook and in Silicon Valley is the speed of innovation and learning.
Why is Silicon Valley a great place for engineers?
Not only is it the home of some of the world’s fastest moving companies, but everyone around you is working on new technology.
Outside of the Valley, companies are very bureaucratic and engineers sometimes feel that they are a cog in a large machine, making no difference to the company. In the Valley, engineers are almost always working on projects which have significant impact on and are critical to the vision of the company.
As an intern at Facebook, I got to travel to data centers around the world and even to their manufacturing facilities in China. I lead the production of a new line of severs and I deployed a testing product which saved Facebook $1.4 million per factory.
Tell us about your MIT research project in Singapore.
The research project I worked on at the Singapore University of Technology and Design was funded by MIT with the goal of creating an inexpensive, self-driving vehicle to help solve the first and last mile mobility problem.
Self-driving vehicles are one of the most talked about technologies today. There is no doubt that autonomous vehicles are the future. Traditional auto manufacturers, plus Google, Uber, Tesla and even Apple are said to be working on self-driving vehicles.
But the vehicles they are designing rely heavily on very sophisticated and expensive hardware. Localization is done though expensive GPS, LIDAR and computer vision systems, making costs high.
The goal of the research project was to build an extremely low cost, self-driving bicycle sharing platform using cheap sensors which are present in today’s mobile phones.
What are you working on now?
I am trying to help solve the issues stemming from the world’s reliance on fossil fuels for energy. As part of my final year capstone project, I am working on an energy storage system that enables sustainable and economical electrical storage for residential use.
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