WATSON HELLO: A Snapshot of my Summer Experience with IBM and the Wond’ry

“Watson Hello”

“Hi. I’m here to help. Feel free to ask me for flower recommendations (or delivery info).”

I felt euphoric as my IBM TJbot, which is a robot made of cardboard running on IBM Watson operating systems, responded to me after running the same set of codes multiple times. I had finally realized that my coding was not the problem. I had mistakenly swapped my password with my username while trying to get access to my online Watson chatbot (a conversation bot like Apple’s Siri). While error checking, I called my IBM primary point of contact who after some consulting, showed me my flawed set-up for the TJbot via a skype call and helped me quickly correct my error. Now with my TJbot operational, I excitedly hurried to the first floor to show the Wond’ry Program Coordinator Dominique Anderson, who had been guiding me throughout the summer, my progress and finally let her play with this amazing creation that I had now mastered.

Nine weeks before this breathtaking experience with the TJbot, I received the chance to interview at the Wond’ry after meeting with Evans Family Executive Director Robert Grajewski and VUSE Professor Duco Jansen, who is a professor for Biomedical Engineering, Neurological Surgery, and Dean for Graduate Education. Through this meeting, they learned of my interest in robotics and mechanical engineering and saw an opportunity for me to further hone these skills through this IBM internship opportunity. In addition to mastering the TJbot platform, I was also tasked with researching all of the research and analytics resources that IBM provides on their Academic Initiative Platform and subsequently create seminars and workshops that my fellow Vanderbilt students could partake in once they returned  back to campus this fall.

At first, I was a bit nervous, as I had to synthesize a lot of abstract articles on topics that at the time were foreign to me, including Data & Analytics, Quantum computing, Blockchain, Chatbots, and others. Undeterred, I marched through this effort and  overtime began to gain my confidence through tools like the IBM Think Academy better understand these abstract concepts. Ultimately, I began to get excited, starting to think of new ways these resources could utilized cross Vanderbilt campus. To articulate my vision – under the director of Dominique, Robert, Duco, and my IBM counterparts – I began drafting workshop plans, agendas, and syllabi outlining how these series would be conducted. Weekly meetings, ensured that I was on the right track logistically while feedback ensured I was constantly improving on my initial ideas.

Seven weeks into the internship, I had now finalized the workshops, confirmed their dates, and began to coordinate with student organizations from across campus to assist me in the marketing and promotion of these future events. The feedback from my peers has been outstanding. Likewise, I began to further experiment with TJbot – my personal favorite workshop scheduled for the fall—taking advanced online classes on the topic. Through this effort,  I am proud to admit that I was able, using these IBM tools, to teach myself a new coding language called “node.js,” which has enabled me to fully control the TJbot and make it responsive to  certain commands and carry out certain instructions. The highlight of my summer was then presenting my work and efforts via a one-hour PowerPoint presentation and lecture to IBM representatives that highlighted the additional tools, materials, and personnel, we would need to launch these workshops this fall for my Vanderbilt peers.

This internship at the Wond’ry and with IBM not only gave me the opportunity to utilize my organizational skills to create workshops for the Vanderbilt community but most importantly provided me with an immersive and experiential learning experience that I will cherish forever while learning how IBM resources are truly transforming the world in a fast-paced manner.

 -Mubarak Ganiyu VU ‘21

Mubarak Ganiyu is currently a Vanderbilt Sophomore majoring in Mechanical Engineering. He originally is from Nigeria.