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

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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 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.

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