TechSandBox: MetroWest Innovation Hub 

Our Mission:   Deliver the educational content, resources, expertise and community to science and technology companies and their entrepreneurs, accelerating innovation and success.  We do this by bringing the ecosystem together in one location, right here in MetroWest.

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.



May 4, 2015: Microprocessor system design for early stage product development (click to register)

In order to get investors and customers excited about ‘an idea’, it is often necessary to develop a proof of concept. This is as true in the world of control systems  and electronic design as it is in biotech and application software.

Tonight we have Microtest Technology engineers who will walk us through an example of the process of prototype development using development kits, chips and processors readily available at low cost to the market. They will then describe how to take the proof of concept to the next step of design for manufacture.

Moderated by Art Martin, former CEO, FloDesign, and Business Advisor, MSBDC

Instructional design:  Mike Walker, Microchip Technology, Mark Hoffman and Tom Bombard, Arrow

Case Example: Alex Pina, Avalanche Energy

                 Alex Pina, Avalanche         Art Martin, MSBDC, industrial startup expert       Mark Hofmann, Microchip


Art Martin is a senior business advisor/ technology specialist at the Massachusetts Small Business Development Center at Clark University.  He advises nearly 200 small business clients and entrepreneurial ventures annually. In that role he provides assistance to technology related startups, including management advice on best practices, business and product development, business planning, access to capital, marketing, operations and other aspects of running a small technology based business. He also advises clients in business acquisition and turnaround situations. 

Art has an impressive track record in business management with a particular emphasis in companies where the end product is the innovative refinement of technology.  He has been a founder of multiple start-up companies and has more than 40 years of experience as an entrepreneur. Most recently he held the position as President and Chief Executive Office of FloDesign, Inc. of Wilbraham, MA. He assumed leadership of this incubator company during the successful spinout of FloDesign Wind Turbine (Ogin, Inc.) and went on to be instrumental in the spinout of FloDesign Sonics. Under Art’s leadership, FloDesign, Inc. was the recipient of three Phase I and two Phase II SBIR’s.  Of particular interest was the successful DOE Phase II that resulted in the design and development of a 1KW Hydrokinetic Water Turbine with integral rim drive generator.   Art was also Founder and CEO of SFA, Inc. where he spent 16 years leading this instrument company specializing in robotic chemistry workstations for the pharmaceutical industry.

Art earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business and Robotics Engineering from the University of Massachusetts and a Masters of Education from Boston College.

Alex Pina is the founder of Avalanche Energy, a solar thermal company focused on delivering affordable and minimalist products to our customers. Avalanche Energy was recently awarded the Rising Star Award by the Cleantech Open Northeast Region, and is located at Greentown Labs in Somerville.  He spent four years at MIT Lincoln Laboratory developing ruggedized hardware and optical systems for field use and deployment. He received his B.Sc. in Aerospace Engineering and M.Sc. in Engineering and Management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His interests include hardware system design and testing, solving puzzles, and playing ice hockey.

Mike Walker is the regional distribution manager for Microchip. He has exetensive experience managing, promoting and selling products and services within the semiconductor industry and in-depth experience managing the sales channels in the electronic components industry. His core competencies including managing salesrepresentative activities, distribution interface and end customer relationship.

Mark Hofmann is a Field Applications Engineer (FAE) from Microchip Technology. Prior to joining Microchip, he spent the last dozen years bringing digital hardware and firmware solutions to market for a wide range of different industries including: Networking Equipment, scientific instrumentation, security, and life safety. As an FAE at Microchip, he assists customers with component selection, hardware and software troubleshooting, and manufacturing of electronic systems.

When he’s not directly supporting Microchip’s mission, he maintains his sanity by helping out various makers on social media with software and hardware issues. He then loses it again by volunteering to coach two middle school FIRST Lego League teams and helping a high-school robotics team. Mark holds a BSEE from the University of Hartford.

Thomas Bombard, joins this panel and is a Field Applications Engineer at Nu Horizons Electronics, An Arrow Company.

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, David Bonneau, 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     David Bonneau  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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