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Technical Innovation and Product Prototyping in Silicon Valley

July 11, 2018

About me

Anja Deric is a second year student pursuing a BS in electrical engineering. She is a member of the Science Squad, the Husky Volunteer Team, and a peer mentor for Cornerstone of Engineering. She is also the Honors Living Learning Assistant for the Technology & Creativity and Social Change, Sustainability, & Human Rights LLCs in the Honors Program. 

Technical Innovation and Product Prototyping in Silicon Valley 

When I first heard about Northeastern's Dialogue of Civilizations programs, I immediately knew I wanted to do one. I was initially unsure about what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go, but as soon I spotted Silicon Valley on the list, my decision was made for me. As an engineering major, visiting what is considered “ground zero” for technology and innovation had always been on my bucket list. As a result, my expectations for this month-long adventure were set high going in, and looking back on this experience now, they were definitely surpassed.

Over the course of 5 weeks, our group got to visit and hear from 9 different companies, ranging from large corporations like Intel, Tesla, and Google all the way to small startups including Snowflake, Alta Motors, and Strongkey. For each company visit, we toured their facilities and heard presentations by employees from different departments about the work that their teams do. As a rising sophomore who will soon be applying for co-op positions, getting to hear from such a wide variety of companies (in terms of size as well as area of expertise) helped me get a better sense of what I want to gain from my co-op experience and which types of companies or jobs I might want to apply for in the spring.

In addition to the educational value of these company presentations, we were also able to form relationships with some of the presenters. During our visit to Intel, for instance, many of us got a chance to talk one-on-one with the presenters, who gave us valuable advice regarding our educational paths and careers. Furthermore, they also came over to our Silicon Valley campus just days after our visit to hear us present our final projects for the courses we were taking, giving us feedback and advice for what our next steps should be.

The final project that we presented to Intel was, in fact, one of my favorite parts of the trip. We were tasked with designing a product and developing a business model and a working prototype for it. Because the project was so broad, each team was able to pick and develop a product they felt passionate about. Additionally, because the process of product design has so many different aspects to it, each group member was able to focus on an area they enjoy the most. As an electrical engineer, I found circuitry and coding to be the parts that excited me the most, so I spent most of my time focused on those, while simultaneously getting a glimpse into all the other areas as well.

On top of company visits and class time, a portion of our time on this trip was also dedicated to more social activities, including many group dinners, a visit to the Tech Museum of Innovation, and a day trip to California’s Great America. One of my favorite activities was our visit to the Bay Area Maker Faire, which was essentially an adult version of a science fair. At the Maker Faire, we got to see dozens of very unique products and ideas from many different areas of engineering being brought to life. Seeing all the different projects and presentations was not only fun, but it also inspired us to think more creatively and to be open to new, seemingly crazy ideas.

For the last week of our trip, we moved from our San Jose hotel and stayed in downtown San Francisco. The last 4 days of our visit primarily consisted of sight-seeing as we were given tickets for bus tours and the iconic cable cars. On one of the days, we even got to tour Alcatraz. Although these activities weren’t as tech-based as the rest, they were all really fun and provided a nice conclusion to our trip.

Overall, despite initially having doubts about which Dialogue to go on, my experience with this specific program was nothing short of amazing. Coming into the Dialogue, I wasn’t sure where exactly I wanted to take my studies at Northeastern or if I even wanted to stick with electrical engineering. However, all the company visits, presentations, and projects we completed have helped me re-discover my passion for my major and I was able to come out with a better understanding of what I want to do in the future.

July 11, 2018 10:45 am