Building Robots, Building the Future

On Saturday, April 30, FIRST Robotics will crown its 2011 international champion at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis. One of the teams competing for the championship comes from Pontiac, Michigan. Team 51, known as “Wings of Fire,” captures the crowd’s attention with their black t-shirts, purple hair (on some members,) and dancing fans. They capture the other teams’ attention with their GM Powered robot, solid teamwork and dedicated mentors.

One of those mentors – Philip Lundberg — was a FIRST Robotics student in Kokomo, Indiana not too long ago. He showcased his engineering skills at FIRST Robotics tournaments right around the turn of the century and his school was national champs in 1998.

TechnoKats Photo 1999

This is the national championship team from Kokomo. Phil is 2nd from the right in the second row.

His FIRST Robotics work was so good, he tried to patent it. “When I was a senior in high school I filed (a patent pending) for a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) that I designed for my robotics team.” Because of financial considerations he dropped his patent application. His work won him a scholarship to Kettering University in Flint, Michigan.

While at Kettering he worked as a co-op student with GM and handled assignments including test engineer, development engineer, manufacturing engineer and analysis engineer. After finishing his Masters degree, he started working for GM full time in November 2007 and is now in the Advanced Engineering area, developing transmissions. We can’t get specific about what he’s working on, but we can tell you it’s future technology aimed at meeting and exceeding upcoming fuel economy and emissions standards.

He’s still waiting for his first patent, but right now he has almost three dozen patents pending based on his work for GM. He says, “Since I have started work here full time 3½  years ago, I have obtained 34 patent pendings.  I’m still waiting on the patent office to issue a single patent. Right now, it can take 4 years for them to review a patent.” Most of Philip’s patent applications revolve around hydraulic controls for automatic transmissions, but he also has others related to valve designs, clutch position sensors and other items. And he’s only in his 20s.

Phil with Team 51 at FIRST Robotics national championship in Atlanta in 2010.

Phil with Team 51 at FIRST Robotics national championship in Atlanta in 2010.

But he’s used to hanging out with people who are even younger because of his involvement with FIRST Robotics. He says he spends a few hours every week mentoring the students on general engineering disciplines . “During build season I’m with them (the high school students) basically every single day for a few hours and all day on Saturdays.” Why does he do it? “It’s fun and it’s a way of giving back to the community.”

He was a student who was inspired by engineers. Now he’s hoping to inspire other students to become our future technology and science leaders.

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