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Meet Our Interns: Part 2

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Meet Our Interns: Part 2

We want to expose every intern to what it takes to build a show-ready automation system. They not only work with the mechanics but with the electrical components, electronics, software, even the shipping and logistics. It is more than engineering,  CAD work, machining, or coding – we bring all those skills to play every time we take on a project. Our second intern is a perfect example of the melting pot of technical skills and theatrical interest that we love to see.

 

Meet Ross

After high school, Ross Berry’s passion for robotics led him to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Robotics Engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, where he is now a senior. Robotics, Berry says, is a combination of the computer science, mechanical engineering and electrical engineering majors. “In high school,” he says, “I was getting into robotics club, and I was also getting really into theater. The two passions lived side by side until I found a way to combine them.”

At WPI, he further discovered that his path for robotics overlapped with his interest in theater, where he enjoys scenic work, lighting and sound. Instead of just knowing how to design electrical systems well, Ross says, “Robotics teaches you to take the knowledge you have designing electrical systems and to integrate that into software.”

 

Okay Google – Find “Creative Conners Internships”

Ross’s interest in Creative Conners started in the spring when he was researching internship opportunities. Ross stumbled across the website (Google is good). It was a perfect match for what he wanted to pursue. After e-mailing Gareth Conner his resume and an explanation of why he wanted to work here, an interview was set up and shortly thereafter an offer was made. Ross was a good fit for us and we were a good fit for him, sometimes it’s just that simple.

Will Code for Food

Early in the summer, Ross focused on electrical work, and then shifted into programming and coding. “Initially,” he says, “I worked a lot with prototyping changes to the Stagehand motion controller. Then I worked on improving our internal supply management program, and upgrading the Stagehand firmware.” Although he knew C and Java coding languages coming into this internship, Ross is proud of the Python knowledge he has acquired over the summer.

Ross was impressed with the range of experiences his internship offered. “Gareth gives all of the interns a broad taste of everything that happens.” His favorite project to work on was the web development experience he gained upgrading in-house supply software, Off the Shelf. “After working on Off the Shelf for a while,” cites Ross, “I think I’ve gotten much more efficient. It was really cool learning a variety of new skills.” He has also done lots of trouble-shooting on equipment and rentals needing to be repaired and checked.

Each day, Ross’s learning process was different and new. “Going in, I reviewed a bunch of tutorials to get up to speed. Gareth gave me easier projects at first, then ramped me up to more advanced stuff, offering his help whenever I got stuck.” He was never on his own but we don’t babysit either. Ross stepped up big time and several software projects benefited greatly from his work. Our internal supply software has never been zippier and some of Ross’ Stagehand coding has already been incorporated in recent updates.

A Nice Short Commute

Originally from Easton, Massachusetts, Ross commutes to the Warren, RI, office of Creative Conners. His internship has further developed his passion for theater and robotics, giving him cutting edge-experience that will propel him to the next level of success at WPI and beyond.

Ross was great to work with this summer. As the school year starts and he dives back into campus we know the past few months were smoother for us because he was here. We hope he had as much fun as we did working with him.

Meet Our Interns: Part 1

Every year we hire a handful of talented undergrad and graduate student to serve as interns over their summer vacation. We call them interns, but really they are quickly integrated into our team and pitch in on anything and everything in our office. Now that the school year is upon us we’d like to introduce you to the 2017 interns and let them share a bit of their experience working with us. This year we were joined by three great automation nerds, Jessica Gilliard, Ross Berry, and Danton Wein. They are headed back to campus, but they will be missed in our shop.

Meet Jessica

Jessica Gilliard enjoys a challenge. Years ago, she was told that she wouldn’t excel at Technical Direction. But she persevered, falling in love with carpentry, metalworking and creating scenery. She emphatically says, “It became what I wanted to do with my life.”

After earning a bachelor’s degree in Theatre Design and Production from California State University, Fullerton, Jessica is currently a second-year graduate student at San Diego State University pursuing a MFA degree in technical direction for Theatre, Television, and Film.

Automation Indoctrination

Jessica gained her first experience using Creative Conners’ Spikemark software during her junior year of undergrad. Encouraged by Cal State Fullerton’s TD, Bill Meyer, her first foray was as the automation operator, where she was “just pushing buttons”. She was impressed with Spikemark’s intuitiveness and ease of use.  By graduation, she was a full-fledge Automation Technician for every show that included moving scenery at the school.

Before this internship, Jessica gained professional experience in CNC work for South Coast Repertory and was a draftsperson for a theme park project. At SDSU, she is a carpenter and teaches stagecraft classes.

Jessica got her foot in the door when she helped set up the Creative Conners USITT booth and met Gareth Conner, Founder and President. “I already wanted to work here, but I wanted to get a feel for it,” Jessica says. She applied for the internship in‑person and was accepted.

In addition to her strong automation skills, Jessica absolutely excels at soft skills that are essential but hard to quantify. She loves learning, is doggedly persistent, and is a creative problem solver. This summer gave her an opportunity to practice and reinforce some real word technical skills as well – metalworking, fabrication, and electrical work kept her busy. “I learned a lot of electrical aspects here, and following diagrams to create pieces of machinery,” she says. “Once I have diagrams in front of me, I can figure out how to do it.”

 

Jess and Ross double-teaming some circuit board fab. #makeitmovecci #scenicautomation #madeinusa

A post shared by Creative Conners (@creativeconners) on

Coolest Summer Projects

Jessica’s favorite project this summer was the stock ticker for a fantasy football television show, where she used Fusion for the first time. She says, “The stock ticker effect is one of those old timey ticker tape machines that pops out of a desk. It spews the paper out at the announcer. There was a prototype when I came in, but I thought, ‘How can I make this better?’” The creation to completion process was exciting. Now that little machine is in a studio in daily use for a television show.

 

As part of the Creative Conners team, Jessica’s day begins at 8:30 am with a meeting, where Gareth discusses ongoing projects and makes sure each person knows their assignments. Then she jumps into projects, striving to be as efficient as possible.

What has been most surprising for Jessica about Creative Conners is the camaraderie. “I think the people here are great and very talented.” Also unexpected is how small the Creative Conners team is considering the volume of products they produce.

Plans After School

Once grad school is done, Jessica could see her career returning to Creative Conners. But she’s got the talent and drive to chase down any number of opportunities. Time will tell if she ends up at a regional theatre, working in the TV/Film industry in southern California, or something entirely different.

During down time from her busy schedule this summer, Jessica, a first-time visitor to Rhode Island, enjoys relaxing and trying different foods, including the ocean state’s pizza. She’s enjoyed Rhode Island’s awesome food but somehow, she managed to not eat any lobster (for shame).

Last Thoughts

Jessica says this internship has been an unforgettable experience. She feels grateful to have heard about the opportunity from her advisors, Bill Meyer and Loren Schreiber, who had faith in her abilities. “I’m lucky to be here, and hopefully I’m proving their recommendation correct.”

 

Best of Luck Jessica

Now that Jessica is returning to SDSU to finish up another year of grad school we’ll miss her. We know she’ll take back firsthand knowledge of how we Make It Move and wish her the best.

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