#PGHSTEM Spotlight: Andre Swain

Robotics mentor, hardware specialist, machinist, STEM professional

Andre Swain

Andre Swain / Photo by Willy James

Andre started his manufacturing career with basic training at the University of Pittsburgh’s Manufacturing Assistance Center.  While there, Andre started an internship with a local robotics company that turned into a full-time job as a Junior Machinist. He then went to New Century Careers and joined their MANUFACTURING 2000 program in 2014 to gain formal credentials through the National Institute for Metalworking Skills that allowed him to advance professionally in his career to Machinist 1 and now Machinist 2.

He currently handles all of the manually machined and 3D printed part orders, as well as serving backup for the CNC operator/programmer. Recently, Andre has been working on a two-arm robotic system that help injured soldiers on the battlefield. His company is also developing robotic systems that detect potential harm, rather than sending a soldier out into a dangerous area.

We sat down with Andre to learn how STEM has shaped his life as an STEM professional, hardware specialist, and machinist.

This interview has been edited for clarity and concision.

Willy James: What was your STEM “a ha moment”?

Andre Swain: My STEM “a ha moment” was creating the components to make a battle bot at Pitt SciTech. And actually, during the competition, watching our bot get destroyed. (laughs)

It was a lot of “Aw man, I put a lot of work into it we thought this was gonna be great.” To see it get destroyed like that was “a ha, we have to do better!”

Willy James: What has a career in STEM meant to you?

Andre Swain: It has meant a lot to me, coming from the West End of Pittsburgh, not knowing much about manufacturing. I’ve always been into taking things apart putting them back together, but not really knowing I could make a career out of it. Getting into manufacturing has helped me professionally and personally. It’s meant everything, it’s actually changed my life.

“I apply STEM – my hands on knowledge and skill – to everything” – Andre Swain

Willy James: How does STEM show up in your everyday life?

Andre Swain: When I make a part and I integrate it into a system, and I watch that system operate, it makes me happy. It helps me with fixing cars, fixing phones, I apply STEM—my hands on knowledge and skill—to everything. If something breaks that I own, I try to fix it on my own first.

Willy James: What’s one thing you wish more people knew about STEM?

Andre Swain: The opportunities out there, especially for younger people. Even if you don’t have it naturally, knowing of the STEM programs, Bots IQ, First Robotics, will allow you to get hands on and start gaining that knowledge. It may even change your mind on what you think you wanted to do or pursue in life. You may think you may want to be a lawyer, but you may get into tearing apart video game systems or building a robot to compete in Bots IQ, and find out that you would rather be hands on as an engineer or a machinist.

Willy James: What’s one STEM experience/resource/book/program/event you’d recommend?

Andre Swain: Bots IQ, mainly because I’ve had a significant amount of experience and and hands-on knowledge with Bots IQ. Being a sponsor of Pittsburgh SciTech, working directly with the kids. It’s a very fun-fueled activity getting together being an engineer on a smaller level, but it brings about so much creativity. Seeing the schools and children come up with these designs and watching them battle them out and seeing these bots together competing is just all out fun. My ties with Bots IQ is the one resource I’d consider.

Andre Swain at RE2 Robotics / Photo by Willy James

Andre Swain at RE2 Robotics / Photo by Willy James

Learn more about Andre and his work with RE2 Robotics on their website.

This post is part of the #PghSTEM Spotlight, a project to lift up professionals who represent a more diverse and inclusive future for STEM careers.

Follow the links below to check out other spotlights in the collection.

Published June 18, 2019

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