Camille Eddy has wanted to be an astronaut since the age of twelve. That led the native of Idaho to focus on engineering and computer science as she was home schooled through high school and then to major in mechanical engineering at Boise State, where she’s a rising senior. “I see robots and artificial intelligence as having some really cool applications for space and for technology in general, and I just want to keep driving towards that,” she says. Already making her mark, Eddy was chosen to introduce President Obama when he visited Boise State to speak about education and innovation last year and is the recent recipient of a McNair Scholarship, a program that prepares students who are traditionally underrepresented in graduate education for doctoral studies through involvement in research and other scholarly activities.
HP: What are you working on at HP Labs this summer?
I’m working in the Emerging Compute Lab and our summer project is teaching a telepresence robot how to find a conference room and open the door by itself. There’s a team that’s working on the navigation part of it and my responsibility is programming the mechanical arm that grabs the door handle and turns it.
HP: How’s it going?
It’s going really well. There’s a long, steep learning curve, but today I’ve started to use point cloud libraries and I’m really excited about that. Point cloud libraries contain algorithms that help us improve perception in robots. At the moment I’m in simulation, using Linux and ROS – the Robot Operating System which NASA uses for simulations of its International Space Station robot, Robonaut. The software behaves exactly as a physical robot arm would in real life. That's three quarters of my project, because if the arm works in simulation, it’s relatively simple to get it to work on the real thing.
HP: What’s challenging about the project?
First you have to be able to detect that the door is a door and where the handle is without getting a false positive. Then you have to be able to execute your plan, which requires inverse kinematics where you figure the end state you’d like and then work backwards to figure out how the arm should begin moving in order to open the door.
HP: How did you hear about interning at HP Labs?
Last summer I interned at HP Boise and I worked both on print engines and their robotics team. The robotics team asked me to work on a five fingered, 3D printed robotic hand controlled by a 3D camera. That was pretty successful and I was invited to talk about it at an HP all-employee meeting in Palo Alto, which led me to being invited to come to HP Labs this summer.
HP: What have you liked so far about being at HP Labs?
It’s really cool to be able to work on projects where you have great teams and active, engaged leaders who you can bounce ideas around with. And then we have access to the resources that we need to make our ideas a reality, which allows us to be successful.
HP: Are you still planning to be an astronaut?
It’s a long road, but yes, absolutely. Finishing my undergraduate degree is my next step and then I’m hoping to study robotics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning in graduate school. My approach has always been to shoot for the highest goal. Who knows what will happen – but if I don’t make it, I’ll probably end up somewhere really good, and if I do make it, that would be amazing.
HP: What do you like to do for fun?
When I’m not coding and programming robots I’m encouraging other people to do it. One of the first things I did when I got here was go to San Francisco and volunteer with Black Girls Code, helping the girls figure out how to make small circuits. I was able to share with them that I’m an engineer at HP and it’s because I went out and just tried my best – so I was trying to help them bridge the gap between where they are and where they could be. I’m also active on Twitter and have a blog called HelloCami.com. I’m all about encouraging other people to come into STEM and do some of the same things that I’ve been doing - and have fun.