From MIT to Mujin: Insights from a Rising Engineer

For the ‘Mujinians Voice‘ series, we would like to introduce Kenji, a rising sophomore at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) studying mechanical engineering. Kenji worked as an intern from June 2023 for 3 months.

Starting your college this year, so why did you choose to begin your internship so early?

I was eager to gain hands-on experience with actual robotics and engineering in a real-world context. The application of mechanical engineering in real-life settings differs significantly from the controlled environment of research labs. I thought that by connecting academic research with the real-world engineering at Mujin, I could enhance my learning and make a more substantial impact in the field.

Could you please provide us with details about your internship assignment at Mujin?

During my internship, I worked on this gripper project. You know how sometimes the robot accidentally crashes into a box due to operator errors or programming glitches? Well, that tends to mess up this side pad, making it bend out of shape.

To prevent that, I came up with a cool fix – a damper assembly that fits snugly in there. This tweak lets the gripper move up and slide around when needed. So, if the robot bumps into something vertically, instead of wrecking the side pad, this damper soaks up the hit. There’s a neat little sensor that tells the robot to stop when it senses this impact.

Is this gripper heavy?

It’s about 20 kilos. We tested it with different springs to make sure that under 2G acceleration, the damper stays put without bouncing around. Smooth sailing, no bobbing up and down!

Sounds like your solution could make a real difference in preventing damage!
How was your overall experience at Mujin??

I found it really enjoyable. Before, whenever I did robotics, it was more of a solo, fun activity. So, it’s quite a different experience doing it as a full-time job. But what I truly appreciated was the opportunity to collaborate with various teams. Besides closely working with the mechanical team, I also engaged with the manufacturing team to assemble the damper and the tech team to test it on a real robot. It was great interacting with these different groups and observing their work processes.

What valuable lessons have you learned throughout your internship?

I believe the most valuable lesson I learned, especially from an engineering standpoint, is the art of designing for reliability. Unlike personal projects where failure might not be a significant concern, in a production line setting with robots, there’s no room for breakage. It’s crucial that these designs function flawlessly, repeatedly, without fail. It’s a distinct engineering mindset where even a single failure is unacceptable in the operational cycle that runs thousands of times.

This knowledge will be a huge asset for my future. The skills and insights gained at Mujin are distinct and hard to find elsewhere, offering a valuable understanding of real-world engineering practices.

So, could you describe more about the culture?
Why does it appeal to you?

What I appreciate about Mujin’s culture is how people are incredibly approachable and supportive. It’s a relaxed and friendly atmosphere where everyone’s open to answering questions. They don’t just give a quick response; they take the time to show me exactly what they mean, whether it’s demonstrating something on the robot or offering assistance when I’m stuck. It’s a supportive environment where they ensure I’m not left struggling with an issue.

Also, they trust interns like me to work on projects that might end up on production robots, which isn’t common in every company. But this level of trust is something I find really valuable.

If I ever end up living in Japan, I’d definitely aim to work at a company like Mujin. I’m really drawn to Mujin’s vision and culture and would love to be a part of that.

What advice do you have for students interested in obtaining an internship?

I believe the way I secured this internship was through my dedication to personal projects. So, instead of solely fixating on programming problems, GPA, or conventional metrics, I encourage focusing on investing significant time in building projects that genuinely ignite your passion.

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