MIT-Japan Program Internship Report: Sophia Cheung

As part of Telexistence’s effort to find the best talent from anywhere on the planet, we work with Master’s and PhD interns throughout the year. Sophia connected with us via the MIT-Japan Program and decided to relocate to Japan for six months to work together.

Background: MIT Master’s of Engineering Degree in Mechanical Engineering, MIT Bachelor’s of Science in Mechanical Engineering. Professional Interest and Experience in Product Design and Development.

Internship Period: August 2023 – February 2024

Team: Hardware Engineering, Retail Robotics

What did you pursue in your Master’s research, and how does it fit with what we do at TX?
I finished my Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering, under the Advanced Manufacturing and Design program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Under this program, I undertook coursework in product design, mechanical design and supply chain/operations management. For my thesis work, I collaborated with Texas Instruments, a semiconductor manufacturer, to develop tools – including machine learning models, hardware, and software – to improve semiconductor yield through better wafer defect detection.

I think a lot of the skills I’ve learned through my Master’s program and thesis project relate directly to projects I have been assigned at TX. On the design side, I’ve been tasked with mechanism design, test bench design, and conducting material characterization studies. Working at TX has allowed me to extend my abilities in designing for real world manufacturing standards and has helped me become even more familiar with the CAD software needed to achieve this.

Unexpectedly, I’ve also happened across a project where I get to utilize my manufacturing supply chain/inventory management knowledge through developing models for store operation. I think the skills I’ve learned and practiced at TX will most definitely relate to my future career as an engineer.

What is your biggest achievement or learning through this internship so far?
Of course, this internship has allowed me to refine my technical skills in mechanical engineering and design. But one of the biggest skill growth I’ve noticed in myself is cross-functional collaboration and cross-cultural communication. Being able to interact with Japanese vendors and experts has allowed me to develop my communication skills in Japanese, specifically the vocabulary/language needed for mechanical engineering/design engineers. In addition, on a broader note, this experience has taught me how to generally conduct business in Japan, which I think will be helpful in the future. I hope to work in the product design and manufacturing realm, and of course manufacturing technologies will continue to involve Japanese companies, so having this skill set will be an advantage in future collaborations.

What are the three words that best describe the TX team or culture?

Flexible: The company culture is incredibly flexible. There are no hard requirements regarding time to report to the office, or remote/hybrid/in-person, as long as the work is done and goals are achieved. This allows many of the employees to work at a time that is best for their lifestyle. In addition, the start-up phase of the company means the directives by project can vary quite a lot from week to week, sometimes the vision for a project can pivot; the team is really good at adjusting the workflow and being flexible to match the direction of the vision.

Goal-Oriented: This type of mindset reduces time wasted – the priority is that objectives are achieved and the milestones are met, so employees are free to work in the method that works best for them. This means there can be a reduction in time spent doing unnecessary tasks and red-tape/bureaucracy.

Diverse: The company is made up of many employees from different nationalities and backgrounds. It works well since it offers a well rounded team with many different problem-solving methods, and it is interesting to get to know each others’ previous experiences and learn from others.

Would you recommend TX as a place to have an internship and why?
Absolutely. It is rare to come across such a flexible and encouraging work environment, and as an intern, this means that you can pick and choose projects/tasks that best align with your goals and professional interests. Since the team is small, many of the tasks we work on have a direct impact on the actual deployed robot. The team is incredibly helpful and willing to share their expertise, so I never feel like I am asking too many questions, meaning I’m learning new things everyday.