by Jonathan Spalten
This month, we have another alumni we’d like to spotlight: Ryo Osawa. Ryo was at Georgia Tech between 2011 and 2015, and graduated with a B.S. in Electrical Engineering. During his time at RoboJackets, he was chiefly involved with the RoboCup electrical team. This team is responsible for some of the most complex printed circuit board (PCB) designs in RoboJackets. Ryo is known in the organization as someone with a great deal of knowledge on everything electrical design.
Ryo is currently located in Atlanta, GA. He works at Salesforce as an Urgent Night-Time Support Engineer covering for the Japan & Korea region. In his spare time, Ryo enjoys Japanese animation, VTuber streams, and playing Factorio, a factory simulation game. He also continues to pursue PCB design as a hobby after his time at RoboJackets.
Ryo learned several lessons from his time at RoboJackets. He had a few he thought were worth mentioning. The first was the technical area he dedicated most of his time to: PCB design. Ryo says, “this became my primary job for the first 5 years of my career after graduating; it still likely will be a lifelong hobby.” He also mentions problem solving, troubleshooting and debugging: “The ability to use the right set of tools and skills to identify, break down, and eventually solve a problem is ultimately what is in demand in any industry; RoboJackets provided a great environment (location, tools, people, etc.) to rapidly build, test, and refine designs.” The final thing he mentioned he got out of RoboJackets isn’t a lesson per se, but friends he met during his time with the club: “many of the closest ties I have to this day are with people I met through RoboJackets.”
Finally, as usual, we wanted to ask Ryo what his favorite memories from RoboJackets are. He had two he wanted to share. The first is a competition repair story involving using a metal file to fix an essential electrical component:
We had a board that had an essential component, the field programmable gate array (FPGA), replaced multiple times. With the thermal stress applied each operation, a critical pad was eventually ripped out. To remedy the situation, we soldered on a jumper wire directly from the FPGA to the corresponding pin on the connector it was meant to connect to.
After a match, the hanging FPGA pin (only soldered to a jumper wire) broke off of the chip. We eventually ran out of backup boards, so we had a choice between one fewer robot on the field vs somehow recovering this board. Since the pin was already broken, there was no viable soldering point other than directly to the lead frame (the metal structure inside a chip package that carries signals from the die to the external pins). Unfortunately, we didn’t have any tools on hand that could sand down the chip’s plastic casing to get to the lead frame. A fellow team happened to have a set, and they were willing to lend it to us (in exchange they wanted a lot of their motors fixed). After fulfilling our end of the deal, we got the tool and filed down the top plastic layer near the broken pin, reached the lead frame, and soldered the jumper there. The happy conclusion: We successfully got another bot on the field.
The other is a much shorter story. The electrical team was performing stress testing on the kicker system that includes charging a large bank of capacitors up to ~250V to rapidly discharge and kick the ball that RoboCup uses. Ryo recalls one instance when, during some of these tests, small resistors were hooked up as the load instead. The load resistors were sacrificial, and the test created a good number of ~50k ohm resistors from 1 ohm resistors.