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Beard ’20 Innovates at Summer Internship

Mitchell Beard ’20 Local Motors – For most, when they hear a young man proclaim they are interning in Washington D.C. they immediately think of our Nation’s capital building or one of the many large office buildings that span the streets of the city. In many case they would be right; however, my internship is not one of these at all.

I do not sit in an office space waiting for someone with an “important” job to give me directions to the closest coffee shop and an exact recipe of how they would like their tall cappuccino made. I do not wait around for someone to give me a stack of documents that must be taken to the copy machine. Instead, I have been given the opportunity to create a project all my own. This is possible because of the destination of my internship, Local Motors and funding from the Mellon Grant.

Local Motors is a young multi-million dollar company that works alongside designers and technology companies to co-create new products. In their spirit of co-creation, they have allowed me to use their entire laboratory within their National Harbor facility for my internship. Found within this lab are a variety of tools including 3D printers, some of which are even large enough to print out full size cars.

In order to take advantage of what this lab has to offer and give back to the company, I have started to work on a special project. Local Motors newest creation is called Olli. Olli is a self-driving shuttle bus powered by IBM’s Watson technology. This bus has the ability to converse with customers and look up destinations and take its passengers autonomously to their destination. I believe this product has great potential; however, because the shuttle is not completed there is no way the company can demonstrate the technology it has to offer to consumers. This is where I come in.

After only a few short days at Local Motors I quickly gained a lot of interest in Olli but understood that the company itself did not have a small scale version or final products to show consumers. I quickly came up with an idea how to face this issue and pitched it to the Local Motors (LM) National Harbor (NH) General Manager. I explained to him that if consumers started to become familiar with self-driving vehicles on a smaller scale, it would be easier in the long run to sell the idea of self-driving vehicles. After a while of deliberating with him and an engineer that I have been working with closely, I came up with a solution and course of action. My solution was to create a “Micro Olli”. A similar, small scale Olli that has the ability to drive around LM NH sales facility and interact with customers.

Once I finalized my bill of materials for Micro Olli, created a Gantt chart, and designed a code to run the robot, I pitched my idea to the labs director of LM. She loved the idea and quickly approved my budget to start.

This amazing opportunity would not have been possible if it had not been for the gracious help of the Mellon Grant, my family and their support, and Wabash College.