Innovation Echo Voyager
Next Steps Westwood says the Voyager is likely bigger and more expensive than most of the undersea robots favored by the Pentagon, the world’s top buyer. Towers says his team, still working to cut costs, will conduct sea tests this summer. He seeks to sta
10 percent of their monthly salary for three years after they graduate, but during training pay a symbolic $6 a month. Sixty percent of the graduates land entry-level coding jobs after completing their Laboratoria training, Costa says, and earn on average two and a half times their previous wages. “This isn’t charity work,” says Gisella Esquivel, Torres’s boss at Wunderman Phantasia. “It’s a win-win.”
Along with a share of graduates’ salaries and some money from Costa’s Web business, grants help finance the training program. The Inter-american Development Bank recently gave Laboratoria $900,000 to help train 10,000 coders in the next five years. The money is partly earmarked for four new teaching facilities and a so-called blended learning program that will allow students to do some coursework from home, on their own time.
Collectively, Latin America and the Caribbean will need about 1.2 million software developers within the next decade, says Julie Katzman, executive vice president of the Inter-american Development Bank. Currently, the region’s educational pipeline struggles to turn out even 1,000 coders a year who will stay there, she says.
Blended learning could help further broaden Laboratoria’s student body. For most trainees, at least in Lima, it’s about a two-hour commute each way from their poor neighborhoods to the boot camp’s tony seaside office. Costa says the company plans to offer continuing education courses for the general public to expand its audience.
Profit remains the startup’s big challenge, and Costa is looking for investors. While she tries to scale up, she says she’s conscious of the need to make sure Laboratoria doesn’t forget its nobler aims. Graduate Galia Pedroza says she’s been proud to prove herself as a coder at a university in Lima, surrounded by college-educated men. “They’d never imagined they’d be working with a woman,” she says. “We are showing them that if they give us the opportunity, women can do the work that men do.” �Catherine Elton
The bottom line Laboratoria will graduate 300 women from its coding boot camp this year and aims to produce 10,000 within five years.
Edited by Jeff Muskus Bloomberg.com Form and function
This underwater robot can stay at sea for six months or more at a time without needing refueling from another ship, compared with three days for the previous model, the Echo Ranger. 1.
The 50-ton craft can carry as much as 20 tons of sensors or other gear and operates at depths reaching 11,000 feet. While on the surface, it downloads route instructions from human minders via satellite.
Towers says the Voyager’s operating costs will be less than half those of rival robots, but he won’t provide a figure.
Boeing is pitching Voyager to salvage crews and researchers, along with the typical robot customers—navies and fossil fuel companies.
The company says it’s spent an eight-figure sum on the Voyager; John Westwood, founder of market researcher DouglasWestwood, estimates at least $50 million. Innovator Lance Towers Age Title Director of Sea & Land at Boeing Phantom Works, where about 150 people have worked on the project
The Voyager runs on batteries, which are recharged using diesel fuel every three days during a four- to eighthour resurfacing. With a full 1,000-gallon diesel tank, the robot can travel a total of 6,500 nautical miles—enough to swim around Australia—vs. 200 miles tops for a typical drone craft.