Employee Spotlight: Jody Koplo

Employee Spotlight: Jody Koplo

Jody Koplo, Project Engineer 

You are one of DMC’s four Certified LabVIEW Architects.  Describe the process for attaining that status.

It is the top level of certification that National Instruments offers for LabVIEW developers, so you must first attain all of the previous levels.  There is a four hour exam in which you are given a project to program whose scope is well beyond the given time constraint.  The exam is geared toward managing time and expectation so that someone else could potentially continue your project where you leave off at the end of the allotted time.  You are required to document the project design and program the framework to a high enough level that it can be resumed including strategies to test, debug, and ensure the functionality works.

Do you have any engineering hobbies?

Since biking is a favorite hobby of mine I like to wrench and build bikes.  I also dabble in audio, amplification, and sound devices.  I am interested in kinetic art, and would like to get involved in that someday.  It’s a form of art installation combined with some form of wind or motor-powered motion.

Can you tell me about the design competition you won in college?
I entered the Northwestern Design Competition my sophomore year with four teammates.  There is a stated challenge and the robots must be programmed to compete self-sufficiently with no remote control or interaction.  That year the challenge included a tug-of-war where robots were tethered to a central ring and needed to locate and pop balloons.  Our strategy was to combine the biggest motor with the biggest battery pack so we had a 7lb. robot with 2 horsepower motor.  To pop the balloons we glued needles and x-acto knife blades to the robot, which we named Little John. 
When Little John operated at about 40-50% power the torque would break the wheels loose and it would spin in circles. To maintain consistent operation we had to change the battery every round.  The entire project took about six months to design, source parts, and build and out of about 15 teams competing we won.
Describe some interesting projects you have worked on at DMC?
It’s always interesting to work with large government labs due to the extensive scale of their projects and available resources.  One such project involved battery pack testing and another employed preventative maintenance to diagnose problems for a large super-cooled machine.

I always enjoy partnering with our neighbors at SRAM because my hobbies coincide.  I was able to work with a product development fixture for endurance testing and failure analysis for a new gear system for bikes.  It was fun to see the product development through each phase to product launch and read the cycling community’s guesses online about the new product details.

You are known for being an outdoor adventurer, describe one of the most interesting outings you’ve had and your goals for future athletic adventures.

I ran an accidental marathon in Las Vegas last year wearing a full zombie costume and makeup.  A friend and I were doing the half-marathon in costume and she dared me to run the full marathon route. My overall time was just over 4 hours.

As far as future goals, I would just like to continue improving my times in everything.  It is something of a life goal to complete a sub-3:00 marathon. A little more attainable is getting my 5k time down below 19 minutes.  I’m still pretty new to climbing as  a sport, but at some point in the next couple years I’d like to send a 5.12 sport route.

What is your favorite spot in Chicago?

I would have to say the Lakefront path because I spend so much time there, both running and biking. That being said, I also enjoy grabbing a beer from time to time at the Maproom.

What do you like best about working at DMC?

The atmosphere; DMC is a relaxed and collaborative environment.  We share information and teach each other about our fields of expertise.  For example, soon after I started at DMC four years ago I was working on a project involving Cognex.  Ken, who is nationally renowned for his expertise in vision, coached me at the project outset and then let me take the lead. Everyone at DMC is an expert in their field and is working to accomplish the same goals; we benefit from each other immensely.


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