Forging the Future goes on the road to the FIRST Robotics Competition to meet 3 robotics professionals pioneering the industry and giving back to the next generation. Logan Farrell of Rugged Robotics, Greg Needel of Rev Robotics, and Andy Baker of AndyMark join the pod during this interview montage episode, lending their expertise and insight to a myriad of robotics topics. Talking points include taking the startup red pill, mentoring students at FIRST, and forging the future at their respective companies.
Visit Logan Farrell on LinkedIn.
Visit Greg Needel on LinkedIn.
Visit Andy Baker on LinkedIn.
Connect with Chris Howard on LinkedIn.
Check out Softeq on the Softeq website.
[00:00] Podcast starts - Top Tech Mentors at FIRST Robotics
[00:32] From FIRST student to career robotics with Logan Farrell
[17:23] Taking on a tech leadership role
[20:36] Participating vs mentoring at FIRST with Greg Needel
[32:16] Is software eating the world?
[36:33] Taking the AndyMark red pill with Andy Baker
[41:40] STEM education beyond science fairs
Interview 1: Logan Farrell, Co-Founder & CTO of Rugged Robotics
Do you feel like the culture at FIRST has influenced the culture of your startup?
Initially experiencing FIRST as a student, Logan used the robotics skills he gained from the program to forge a successful career at NASA. After several years of being involved at NASA as an engineer and mentoring at FIRST, Logan felt the call to start his own business and break into the startup world. Logan explains that FIRST not only gave him confidence in his own abilities, but also inspired the experimental and teamwork-driven environment of Rugged Robotics.
“It's [FIRST]’s rapid development, teamwork, interdisciplinary approach. It's very true with how we develop hardware. You’ve got to do it fast and quick, understand what to spend time on and what not to.” - Logan Farrell
Interview 2: Greg Needel, CEO of Rev Robotics
Do you feel like your experience as a FIRST student and mentor prepared you to be an entrepreneur?
Greg has checked every box that FIRST could possibly offer him, including participating as a student, a mentor, a sponsor, and a supplier. Now, in his 23rd FIRST season, Greg reflects that FIRST has impacted his career and his life in so many ways, including how he sees his business, Rev Robotics. Although Greg has always had an interest in engineering, FIRST taught Greg valuable lessons and important skills that have motivated him to take the red pill of starting his own business.
“Every single robotics team that participates in FIRST is, in some regard, a small startup business. And so, I think that being involved with that for so many years, I learned a lot of those lessons that I definitely put in place. We felt like we were more prepared.” - Greg Needel
Interview 3: Andy Baker, President of AndyMark Inc
How powerful is it for kids at FIRST to have mentors that have their own companies?
Being involved with FIRST as a mentor, Andy has the unique opportunity to show kids of all ages that being an entrepreneur is something they can aspire to. Inspired at a young age by seeing the successful engineering careers of his uncles, Andy knows it is vital for kids to have role models to learn from and grow with. FIRST isn’t just hands-on technical learning, it’s a chance to bond with the next generation and encourage them to take a chance on themselves, just like Andy did.
“If you're an entrepreneur, then the kids see you as an entrepreneur. They see some of your challenges, some of your hectic times and your successes. In a way, that's your way of mentoring these kids on how to be an entrepreneur also.” - Andy Baker