(Editor's note: The following article was submitted for publication by the administration of Shawsheen Regional Technical High School.)
Earlier this month, it was easy for Shawsheen Valley Technical High School drafting instructor Robert Guelli to see that senior Matthew Montecalvo was enjoying his cooperative education experience at iRobot in Burlington.
Students that are fortunate enough to be a part of the popular program offered by Shawsheen Tech alternate one week at school and one week at their job. One morning, Guelli saw Montecalvo walk into school.
The problem? It was a co-op week and Montecalvo wasn’t required to report to school that day.
“He just wanted to tell me about some of the things he was doing [at iRobot],” said Guelli with a laugh. “He worked late the previous day, but came to school at seven o’clock to tell me about it, then he went back to work for the day.”
As it turns out, Montecalvo, a Tewksbury resident, has plenty to talk about. Through his work as a drafting technician at iRobot, Montecalvo is helping in the effort to make Japan safe after the tsunami. Robots produced by iRobot, that Montecalvo works with, have been used to measure radiation throughout the ruins in Japan.
“iRobot loves him,” said Guelli. “They can really rely on him and count on him. He’s an all-around great kid and this has been a great experience for him. Imagine having a job driving robots?”
According to Jeremy Skorinko, a systems engineer at iRobot that supervises Montecalvo, the Shawsheen Tech senior has been a great addition to the team.
“When he first started, he was performing system-level tasks like driving the robots around, testing parts,” Skorinko said. “Now, he does a lot of repairs and troubleshooting.”
Montecalvo has worked on two of iRobots more well-known robots including the Warrior, its largest, and the Pacman. These robots have appeared most notably in Japan and in Iraq and Afghanistan aiding troops.
Montecalvo said the robots in Japan are essentially on suicide missions as they approach nuclear generators and record information before being destroyed by radiation.
“It’s pretty crazy,” said Montecalvo. “[Robots] were used during 9-11 as well and on the sea floor during the oil spill in the gulf.”
Montecalvo, who hopes to study mechanical engineering at a four-year college following a year at Middlesex Community College this fall, said he actually saw some robots on television during some of the coverage of the tsunami.
“It was funny in a way,” he said. “I’d be watching the news and I’d say, ‘Hey, I actually helped with that.’”
Skorinko is quick to praise Montecalvo’s contributions.
“We’ve had a lot of interns from colleges too and Matt is the only one that has stayed on this long,” Skorinko said. “For someone his age, he is very dependable and mature and he learns very quickly. He’s a great kid to work with. He’s excited about everything, he’s always in here smiling away.”