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Featured NI Engineer: Sunaina Kavi


Who knew dissecting a pig could lead to a career creating quadcopter demos?


When do you first recall wanting to become an engineer?
My path wasn’t straightforward. I knew I loved finding out how things worked when I was curious about why highways have the curve they do for on and off ramps and who calculated that. I was also fascinated with all my biology classes, especially the hands-on part. We didn’t just learn about organs, we dissected a pig and learned how everything was connected. The fact that different alleles created different looking people was also really cool and I was initially drawn towards a genetics major. However, I realized I loved the actual application of biology, not just the theoretical and I wasn’t heading to medical school, so biomedical engineering was a natural fit. The deep dive into chemistry and biology, as well as the hands-on learning, since BME’s often times are developing prototypes for new medical devices, made me pursue engineering in a rather round about fashion!


How long have you been at NI and what has been your career path here?
I’ve been at NI for four years. Initially I was on High Precision, our support team for PXI and DAQ products, but after working on the FIRST Robotics support team and an NImyRIO marketing project, I knew I could bring my self-taught FPGA skills to the team that supported our FPGA products. This transition lent itself to applying for the role of Product Manager on the Embedded Hardware Team and now I am a Product Marketer for the Embedded team!


What’s been your favorite project at NI?
Creating the Quadcopter Vision Demo for NIWeek when we released Vision IP for the FPGA. There were moments of grief when the quadcopter would take off on its own accord after the program had shutdown, but moments of excitement when we realized it was indeed tracking the object we had created the algorithm to track. Being able to understand the goal of the demo and the underlying pieces like the code and the hardware, made it rewarding to staff at NIWeek. We were able to talk to everyone: from kids to industry experts in vision and discuss how they could use the Vision Assistant to make their lives easier.


If a student asked you why they should pursue engineering, what would you say?
Engineering literally allows you to do anything. I have friends who are becoming doctors, researching cutting edge healthcare technologies, consultants, and then people like myself who ended up in industry. It also instills a sense of confidence, which I have seen in the girls I mentor on FIRST Team 2881. They know how to program, build a robot, tell judges why their team is the best, and know that they have built, from the ground up, something that not only moves, but actually tackles a challenge. It’s the sense of confidence one gains from sports, of achieving a common goal with a team, but it’s also the fact they used their brains to program or build, or create the CAD model for the robot. Programming teaches logic in everything you do, even in non-technical situations. Once you have had to teach a computer how to accomplish a task, it makes it easier to see when a plan for a birthday party is missing a cake to knowing the order of events to accomplish a task at work and the parallel tasks that may need to take place as well.   


About Engineers Week

Engineers Week - the only event of its kind - is a time to:

  • Celebrate how engineers make a difference in our world
  • Increase public dialogue about the need for engineers
  • Bring engineering to life for kids, educators, and parents
  • This post is a part of a series highlighting engineers from NI and their stories about how and why they became engineers.

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