TechSandBox™                Accelerating Innovation in MetroWest

Our Mission:  Accelerate the success of science and technology entrepreneurs and serve as the destination for people in technology in MetroWest. We facilitate access to the information, resources, expertise and connections necessary to grow innovative businesses.

Robotics, Sensors, Automation, Manufacturing SIG (RoboSAM)
1st Mondays, 5:30p-8:15p
(except for holidays so see Calendar, please). We start food, networking and registration at 5:30p with program proceedings about 6:15p.  $20 early bird (the Friday before program at 5pm) /$35 after. Includes food. Members of this SIG are admitted free.

This special interest group is targeted at the folks who make the products that help make the products and people using these tools to make their own product. Got it? This includes: manufacturing and manufacturers, prototyping, sensors, signal processing, testing, measurement, vision, robotics, automation and even MEMs and semiconductors.. 



January 5, 2015: Automation and Technology in Agriculture  (click link to register)

We likely all know the difference in the taste of locally grown produce; think of tomatoes in January in New England! And then there's managing crop growth and harvesting which is backbreaking work that often uses low wage labor. And, we have such a short growing season here... or do we?  

Let's see why agriculture and Massachusetts may appear more often in the same sentence! And how technology is helping with growth in diverse applications from golf course management, to local crop growth, to management of large nurseries.


  • John Kawola, CEO, Harvest Automation
  • Brad McNamara, CEO, Freight Farm
  • David Wooden, CTO and Co-founder, Plantbid
  • Jeff Barton, Founder, Water Fresh Farm

               Brad McNamara FOunder Freight Farms at TechSandBox        John Kawola of Harvest Automation at TechSandBox Robotics Robots MetroWest       David Wooden, CTO, PlantBid at TechSandBox      Jeff Barton Water Fresh Farm hydroponics Hopkinton

John Kawola  is tasked with leading the team at Harvest Automation in commercializing first products and building a platform for future expansion. Harvest Automation is a material handling company known for robotics innovation. Harvest's robots resolve acute manual labor problems across multiple industries, starting with Agriculture. In many industry sectors labor availability, changing labor laws, and tightening environmental regulations are simply unsustainable. These fundamental risks and cost pressures are driving a critical need for automation.

Prior to Harvest, John was the CEO of Z Corporation, one of the early pioneers of the 3D printing industry. Z Corp was acquired in 2012. Prior to Z Corporation, John held technical and marketing positions at Albany International and General Electric. John holds a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Cornell University, an MS in Mechanical Engineering from Renssaeler and an MBA from Union College.

Brad McNamara is the CEO and co-founder of Freight Farms. Freight Farms Inc. manufactures fully-operational farms from upcycled freight containers. Using advanced growing technologies and human-centered design principles, the company affords food- and business- minded folks alike the opportunity to create a local food economy- no matter their background or geography. Freight farms are now operating in cities across the US and Canada, creating year-round access to local, fresh produce for restaurants, universities, corporate campuses, hotels, small businesses, and farmers.

As a champion for sustainability and eco-friendly practices, Brad has deftly combined his business and marketing background to help bring his latest company, Freight Farms, to the world stage. He and his co-founder, Jon Friedman, have developed a product that allows any business or individual to grow a high-volume of fresh produce in any environment regardless of the climate. He has big expectations for the future, envisioning Freight Farms scattered across the globe making a dramatic impact on the way food is produced. Brad has an MBA and Masters in Environmental Science from Clark University.

David Wooden is CTO & Co-founder of Plantbid, a horticulture platform for wholesale landscapers.  Offering the industry’s largest online database of plants from more than 200 nurseries nationwide, Plantbid is a time- and cost efficient sourcing solution for landscapers and an effective tool for nurseries to find new customers and sell more product.

David has over 10 years of experience developing software systems and algorithms and managing technical teams.  David is an active angel investor and serves as technical advisor to startups in the Boston area.

Prior to cofounding Plantbid, David was software lead for Boston Dynamics, an engineering and robotics design company that is best known for the development of BigDog.  He was also a member of the Georgia Tech Darpa Urban Challenge team where he led software design and development.

David holds a PhD in Electrical Engineering from Georgia Tech.

Jeff Barton, Co-founder and General Manager, Water Fresh Farms, started WFF  in 1997 with the premise that there was a need for great-tasting produce that was grown locally, year round, and free of pesticides.  Using state of the art hydroponic growing techniques, Water Fresh Farm provides consumers at their marketplace and throughout Greater Boston with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, basil, baby spinach, and a variety to herbs grown at Water Fresh Farm.

Jeff’s 25 years of business experience was developed in the technology arena rather than directly in agriculture, working for IBM, Apple Computer, and several small software and research companies.



Contact the Chairs if you have an interest in serving on the Steering Committee. One year+ commitment,  attendance at committee meetings and programs, ability to attract panelists/speakers/cases and organize/ moderate the program 2x a year in a timely fashion. Build a strong(er) network, meet interesting people, lead, and help. Membership included as a small reward fro us to you.

Committee: Lori Jones, Kevin Derwin, Dan Hulub, Kapeel KrishanaSharad Mehta


Committee Chair Lori Jones 

    Robotics, manufacturing, sensors, Mems, imaging, and industrial automation cluster at TechSandBoxRobotics, manufacturing, and industrial automation cluster at TechSandBox       Lori Jones Co Chairs the robosam sig    Kevin Derwin, iRobot, manufacturing, robotics, sensors, automation, autonomy  Kapeel Krishana, PhD  Dan Hulub Manufacturing Engineer  Sharad Mehta     Prior Programs

Speaker’s Name:     Candace Sidner

Speaker’s Title:       Research Professor, Computer Science

Short Bio:                   Candace L. (Candy) Sidner has a long-standing interest in human communication and collaboration, and their application to agents, robots and interfaces, especially those using gesture, social behavior, speech, and natural language.  


Candy is a Research Professor at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, with extensive experience in industrial labs, and independent consultant on projects including the RESPECT project for health information for clinical trials. She is PI of the Always On Relational Agent project with Chuck Rich at WPI and Tim Bickmore at Northeastern University, Co-PIs. She has recently worked on multimodal (including gesture) interfaces using a humanoid robot for the role of engagement in conversation.  


Candy is a Fellow and past Councilor of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence, was elected a Fellow of the Association for Computational Linguistics in 2013, and is a senior member of the IEEE.  She has been general chair for a number of conferences, and services on two journal editorial boards.  She was also President of the Association for Computational Linguistics.  She received her Ph.D. from MIT in Computer Science.


Company Website:

Company Pitch:    WPI’s Computer Science program is as diverse and varied as the field of computer science itself, offering course work and specializations in areas such as human-robotic interaction, intelligent tutoring and educational data mining, bioinformatics, computer security and privacy, and graphics and animation among many others. 

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