- Lam launches 3-year partnership with FIRST Global to help inspire future innovators around the world
- Volunteers signed up to mentor robotics teams around the world for the FIRST Global Challenge
Lam Research announced a $10 million donation, distributed over a three-year period, to FIRST® Global, a nonprofit inspiring technology leadership and innovation in young people by empowering them through STEM education.
The donation was announced yesterday onstage at FIRST Global’s signature event, the 2022 FIRST Global Challenge, by Richard Gottscho, our executive vice president and chief technology officer.
“FIRST Global enables transformative learning on a world stage,” said Gottscho. “The competition is an important opportunity to showcase and foster the critical thinking required to address the challenges facing our industry and, more broadly, society. Lam is proud to team up with FIRST Global to excite and inspire tomorrow’s innovators and semiconductor technologists.”
This year, Lam was an official gold-level sponsor of the 2022 FIRST Global Challenge taking place in Geneva, Switzerland from October 13-16. Lam employees were invited to volunteer their time to support the young competitors and their teams on their journey to the FIRST Global Challenge. I caught up with two of them to hear about their experience working with students from around the world.
Divya Bellamkonda, manager of software development in our Computational Products division, adopted a five-member team – four students and one local coach – representing Antigua and Barbuda, a two-island country located in the eastern Caribbean Sea. Floyd Goldstein, software engineer in our Etch Engineering division, Ranjith Narasimhamurthy, mechatronics engineer in our Global Products Engineering division, and Sai Rachakonda, mechanical engineer in our Deposition Engineering division, rounded out the mentoring team.
“I signed up to become a mentor for FIRST Global to share the knowledge I have of computers with the next generation of students,” says Divya.
From the beginning, Divya noticed that the students would undergo a steep learning curve.
“In the initial days, the team was struggling to assemble parts. But once the assembly was done, the students quickly found their rhythm in programming.”
The team shared ideas and strategies on their WhatsApp group, constantly pinging messages about challenges, discovery, and solutions, with Divya and other Lam mentors providing guidance remotely, during their time zone, three hours behind.
“I never provided them with a solution. I would ask them questions that helped them think through every challenge that came their way.”
Just two weeks ago, the team was experiencing an issue with the robotic arm where it would lift up but would immediately, and unintentionally, drop down. After some back and forth on WhatsApp, the students were able to resolve the issue. The solution was to strip the robotic arm of any additional weight to ensure that it remained upright.
“This work excites me because it helps pave a student’s path for the future. Without FIRST Global many students would not have the opportunity to have hands-on experience in robotics, mechanics, and coding. The FIRST Global Challenge goes beyond innovation and encourages students to work together and foster team spirit.”
“I would like to thank Lam for giving me this opportunity. It’s provided me with a sense of satisfaction, with the added benefit that our sponsorship is helping students around the world grow.”
For the past three months, Katherine Williams, systems engineer in our Advanced Technology Development division, mentored a nine-member team – seven students and two local coaches – representing Dominica, a country nicknamed the “The Nature Island of the Caribbean.”
“I wanted to give back to the newer generation of students to better develop their engineering and problem-solving skills in a manner that I had from my own past experience,” says Katherine.
But like Divya, the early days were difficult. “Our team had a delay in receiving the robotic kit due to some shipping issues, followed by it getting stuck at customs.”
Because the delay was significant, the team had to adapt. “We made a lot of changes on the fly, shifting our timelines to utilize the early stages for a detailed design and brainstorming effort and backloading our main testing and development work.”
Most of the students on the team were new to robotics. “There was definitely a steep learning curve.” So, Katherine and two additional Lam mentors for the team, Raj Kolamuri, NCG rotation engineer, and Mahavir Kallirai, quality engineer in Global Operations, helped set a framework for how to tackle the design challenges. “Without having all the tools that were required, we mapped ahead, trying to help the students work around how to solve these problems conceptually without the kit in hand.”
“Despite these challenges, I was most impressed with the students’ resiliency. Their optimism, flexibility, and agility were the greatest positive surprises.”
“Programs like FIRST Global give students a structured introduction to the engineering field, both in mechanical design and software programming. I really enjoyed seeing students tackle these design challenges and being part of their first engineering experience.”