Meet Student Researcher: Lakshmi Gopi

Lakshmi Gopi’s work week starts with participating in meetings with the WIMTACH research team and a client for a FIBRE (Fabric-Based Research, Innovation and Technology Development for SMEs in Sports and Healthcare Industries) project. Recently, she was asked to assist with an applied research project in collaboration with Interaxon and as a design engineering intern, her ongoing task is to help the WIMTACH research team with developing the best durable e-textile fabric suited for supporting the functionalities of Muse headbands. After touching base with her manager about the priority for the week, Lakshmi starts with researching different types of conductive fabrics and to do this, she follows a test procedure to study the behavior of various conductive fabrics. “It’s time-consuming testing,” she said. She compares the testing results of various fabrics with the results from previous days for consistency. Afterward, she takes pictures of each fabric as a part of a documentation process and performs further tests for compatibility with Muse devices. Before leaving each day, she reviews a data sheet with details about conductive fabrics and begins research for academic articles to deepen her understanding of the field. “It’s really really good. I never thought I would be working in the research field,” she said. “By approaching this work with focus and attention to detail, I am making meaningful progress and contributing to the success of the project.”

As a student in Centennial College’s Electo-Mechanical Engineering Technology program, Lakshmi has decided to specialize in Automation and Robotics. She was initially interested in joining WIMTACH because of the opportunity to gain exposure to various industries, including micro-controller-based projects. “WIMTACH’s where I will be exposed to different types of technology, different types of projects, and different types of people,” she said. “I was looking for more experience in Embedded Systems”

When she first heard about WIMTACH’s project collaboration with Interaxon and its involvement with conductive fabric, she immediately thought of the costumes and suits worn by the superheroes in the movie Black Panther. “It was like wow! They are connecting signals from the head with a band… it was really new to me,” she said. Although her work with the Interaxon project isn’t exactly as she’d imagined, she appreciates the opportunity to learn about the fabric-based industry in an applied research setting. Over the course of her internship, she has been introduced to new concepts including effective methods of researching by WIMTACH research managers and has learned tips and tricks which she finds to be useful today. “I was introduced to a new world of research that I had never encountered before,” she said. “It was fascinating. I came to learn about the Materials Science parts of engineering and it’s interesting.” Throughout the project, she has been encouraged to explore areas of interest while learning and researching and she feels that her work is highly valued. “It’s like a great wall of support,” she said.

With months of experience working at WIMTACH, Lakshmi is confident with reciting the entire project cycle of electronic and mechanical projects. With the first kick-off project meeting with a WIMTACH industry partner, she explained that she is able to gain insight into the goal of a collaboration, her role within the research team and specific details about the requirements for the project. After materials have been purchased for a project, the team begins the designing process. “I developed my designing skills as well. My CAD designing skills have been improved. I have been using multiple software for designing,” she said. Once the designing phase of the project is complete, the team begins implementing their work on hardware, soldering the components and then testing a product’s software for efficacy. Significantly, she also begins the optimization process of the project, making sure to note that a product is working at its highest form. “This optimizing part also I learned after doing my first project at WIMTACH. “Optimization is a key component in developing a system with minimized resource consumption, from memory to energy, while still delivering exceptional performance” she said. “For me, achieving low power consumption was a major milestone in my first project.” Through her participation in client meetings and the entire life cycle of projects, Lakshmi has been able to improve her microcontroller programming skills. She also learned about the standard testing requirements for testing fabric.

Lakshmi notes that her internship at WIMTACH has afforded her essential qualities and experience citing, for instance, that her improved organizational skills is an example of the advantage gained from her Student Researcher role. In addition, she emphasized that an important feature of her internship was the enhanced opportunity for her to connect and network with industry professionals from around the world. In fact, one of her previous tasks required her to connect with international fabric-based industry professionals to confirm the details of the latest sensor for a project. As a result, she was in contact with a research team based in the Netherlands. “I received a positive response and was invited to meet with them”, she said. “This exchange was an invaluable opportunity for me to connect with experts in the field and expand my knowledge base.”

Lakshmi still has more to offer. In the long term, she would like to develop her skills in Embedded Systems, and her goal is to work with a company that specializes in this area. Having learned about research, she is also interested in expanding her experience in research to explore job opportunities in the future. “I am excited to work on the projects we are doing here and am fully committed to contributing to their success.,” she said. “WIMTACH is a place with a lot of resources and resourceful- people in different fields working there and help is always available .”

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