Hot water meters, heat cost allocators, smoke alarm devices – they are all nothing new. So why do even Harvard students come to develop products? INSIDEista goes in search of clues in the company’s technology centre – the Technikum.
A new build in the centre of Essen. From outside, the building looks as if there are only offices inside. However, a look behind the façade reveals countless laboratories. They contain 3D printers, state-of-the-art testing facilities and an industrial robot. What is a provider of real estate services doing with so much technology? That’s also what we asked the Head of the Technikum, Achim Dicke: “Here we are working all out on new connected home products. And for that kind of work our experts simply need modern development facilities. We also have high quality standards for our products that we are constantly checking.” And that is important. After all, the data that, for example, a heat meter records have to be correct.
Hand in hand: robot and elite student
The interest of students from elite universities in developing new products and improving testing procedures also shows that these are exciting and complex tasks. This year Harvard student James King did a four-week internship in the Technikum as part of the RuhrFellow Programme. In this time the young American solved the challenge of equipping the arm of an industrial robot with a tactile sensor system. It now automatically avoids collisions with its environment. To achieve this, James King wrote more than 1,000 lines of program code. A lot of work but the Harvard student has happy memories of the time: “ista is great. Everybody was very friendly and helpful and I was able to able to produce convincing work and make a real contribution.”
And what happens now? “As soon as the other parts of the software are programmed, the robot is to operate a test stand,” says Matthew Pasquini, who himself came to ista as a RuhrFellow of Harvard University just over three years ago and now works as an expert in electronics development. He helped James King settle in quickly. “James’s development has brought us a lot closer to, for example, being able to test heat meter turbines in a more automated and more effective way,” says Pasquini.
While Matthew Pasquini continues working on developing connected home products, James King is already on his way back home to the US. “The internship was an important practical experience for me. I was able to learn a lot,” says King, summing up his stay. Will he be coming back to the Ruhr area? First of all he wants to finish his studies. But one thing is certain – ista wants to carry on the RuhrFellow Programme tradition next year and give a US student the chance to get a look inside the company.