14 Floors Bay Area Day 1: Autodesk. Handshake. Skymind.

Autodesk is located across the street from Ferry Building, one of the most iconic locations in San Francisco. A few of the Autodesk highlights:
  • A life-sized styrofoam concept car from Mercedes-Benz that was referred to as the “seed concept” because the design was inspired by the idea of injecting car DNA into a seed and letting it grow into an automobile.
  • Models of several architectural products, including three towers in Beijing, one of which was just completed.
  • A portable incubator for premature babies that has saved countless lives in India, in part because of its affordability.
  • A “smart stake” that can be bought at nearly any home improvement store that analyzes the soil and the surrounding conditions to identify when the grass needs to be watered or the best time to grow crops.
  • A soccer ball that can generate enough electricity to keep a light bulb lit overnight using the stored kinetic energy from kicking it around during the day.

Autodesk has a workshop area that is open to employees and visitors. They offer classes on how to use Autodesk software and then output those designs through CNC machines and 3-D printers. -Tommy Stuart

michigan-tech-14-floors-bay-area-2017-175434Autodesk creates software that is used for many different types of design. We got to go through the gallery and see some of the things their products are used for in terms of designing. One of the cool things that was designed was a soccer ball that people can play with for 30 minutes or more and after that it has the ability to keep a light on for about 3 hours. We also got to see how their software incorporates with 3-D printing technology. One of the cool things that we learned is that Autodesk’s software was used to send the first email file, which was of a wrench, into space for it to be 3-D printed. This was done as a result of one of the crew members losing their favorite wrench and asking for a new one to be sent to them.  – Marcia Drabek

To get to Handshake we rode a San Francisco electric zero-emission bus. Within Michigan Tech’s social sphere, Handshake has a mighty reputation. The co-founder, Garrett Lord, is infamous around campus. Handshake was founded by Michigan Tech students.

The company includes 50 employees, and they serve 170 schools as of fall 2016, with an expected growth of up to 400 this coming school year. Almost the entire office space is windows. There were at least three dozen developers clacking away at their MacBooks while we walked around, and we were led into a conference room where we learned the timeline of the company from Michigan Tech to Silicon Valley. -Tommy Stuart

michigan-tech-14-floors-bay-area-2017-190657-2Adam Gibson, the founder and a Michigan Tech alumnus, explained that Skymind is a B2B company, selling artificial intelligence primarily to banks, telecommunications, and governments. Maybe because I knew very little about Skymind, this was the most enjoyable company to visit of the day. Adam is magnetic, energetic, passionate, and a little quirky. His sense of humor is unique and he often chuckles at his own jokes.  I found that to be endearing.

michigan-tech-14-floors-bay-area-2017-190539I was constantly jotting notes down as Adam fired off facts, figures, names, and a detailed history of Skymind. For instance, Skymind has 20 employees, planning to expand to 50 by the end of 2017. They are a remote-first company with employees in China, Japan, Korea, Malaysia/Singapore, Australia, Russia, and Montreal.

While at Michigan Tech, and living in Houghton, Adam explained that he was involved with forming startups, and he worked in IT Oxygen at Michigan Tech. Perhaps the most inspiring quote from Adam that I heard was, “You have to be able to stomach the rejections.”   – Tommy Stuart