Interview with Colin Angle, iRobot Chairman of the Board, CEO and Co-Founder
Robotics has many unique applications. Two of your specialties — home cleaning and national defense — seem to occupy different ends of the spectrum. How did you choose those as focus areas?
Robotics is such a wonderful metaphor for invention in general and truly captures the imaginations of 2-year-olds on up. At the same time, it's important to create robots that add everyday value — from our Roomba vacuums, to our FirstLook situational awareness robots for infantry, to our new RP-VITA for health care professionals. We founded iRobot to make robotics practical.
Your ongoing educational initiative SPARK features online resources, educator workshops, classroom visits and more. What have you done recently in that space?
Thanks to our efforts, in 2009 Congress designated the second week of April "National Robotics Week." We set up events all over the country to inspire students to experience the joy of robotics. Through our collaboration with schools and companies, we coordinated 163 events in all 50 states that reached well over 260,000 students. We feel uniquely qualified to deploy our people and robots to help "spark" excitement in the STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).
How have other countries gotten ahead in robotics technology, and what can we do about it?
There are other governments like South Korea's who have been aggressively developing national robotics programs, which certainly motivates our behavior, but the larger problem is America's poor performance in teaching students technical skills important in the global economy. Bringing robots into the classroom shows children how exciting a career in the field can be. It's been a fantastic, inspiring experience for us, and at the end of the day we hope it will make a big impact.
What you'd be doing for a living if you weren't making robots
The other main thing I do outside of iRobot is help entrepreneurs scale and build companies — I think the ability to help people create something from scratch is wonderfully rewarding.
Hobbies outside of work
I love scuba diving and sailing, and my latest hobby is underwater photography. It's fun and also appeals to me as a gadget aficionado.
Favorite Boston-area neighborhood to explore
I just moved to the North Shore and promptly bought a Vespa. I've been taking it on the back roads through Manchester-by-the-Sea and Rockport, and there are so many little restaurants and antiques stores along the way.
For more information about Colin Angle and iRobot, please visit http://www.irobot.com/us/