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Innovation Hours:
Building Skills – and Robots

Our Innovation Hours Program gives our employees time to work on their passion projects every week. As part of this series, we are highlighting how individuals are working on themselves, working on their startups, working on their community, and working on the labs. Amit Jha, Full Stack Developer, has worked at the labs for over four years.

During his first two years at 1904labs, he used his Innovation Hours time working towards earning a master’s degree in computer science at Washington University in St. Louis. He’s now using his time to advance his knowledge and skills with hands-on experience.

Building a Robot 

One of Amit’s current projects to advance his skills is building a robot. He gained experience in machine learning and data science and has been working on the robot since his time at Wash U. The robot has capabilities to move around based on simple commands, sense obstacles and decide on its own how to move next and recognizes hand motions that prompt it to move forward, right, or left based on hand gestures. The last piece of functionality is built using Tensorflow and Keras which he learnt about as part of the data science study group in the labs.The robot itself is built using Raspberry Pi and sensors.

amit-robot

As part of this project, Amit also works with his friends’ middle and high school-aged children to share what he’s learned. He tells them what materials to buy and helps them build replicas of his robot. After each successful implementation to his robot, he instructs his pupils, through video calls, on how to make their robots do the same tricks.

“This robot is a work in progress, but very rewarding. I am always breaking things and learning. But I am very proud of what I have done so far, and that I can share the knowledge with others.” 

– Amit Jha, Full Stack Developer

See Amit’s robot in action!

Study Groups in the Labs 

Amit’s passion for learning is endless. He also participates in a Scala study group and data study group at the labs. In these groups, skills such as machine learning and deep learning are the focus topics. Group members discuss what projects they are working on and what they have learned to share best practices. “These groups are good for enhancing your knowledge, especially after university,” said Amit.

The Benefits of Innovation Hours

While “10% time” is something offered by Silicon Valley companies, it isn’t that common in the Midwest. “This is the first company in St.  Louis that I have heard of that provides this kind of time. It is awesome. I love Innovation Hours!” says Amit. “The people around me at the labs are really helpful, too.”

Amit’s projects share with others what kind of things they can accomplish with a Master’s degree. He has a keen interest in artificial intelligence, machine learning and deep learning. He aspires to create experiences that focus on inspiring kids to become interested in computer science.

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This blog is part of a series on how our employees use their Innovation Hours time. Stay tuned for more highlights from their endeavors!

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