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Leila Madrone: Solar Energy Roboticist

Otherlab’s Leila Madrone is trying to make solar power finally work

4 min read
Leila Madrone: Solar Energy Roboticist
Leila Madrone IEEE member Age 37 What she does Investigates ways to produce solar energy cheaply. For whom Otherlab Where she does it San Francisco Fun factors Her office appears in the National Register of Historic Places.
Photo: Gabriela Hasbun

Leila Madrone's earliest aspiration was to work for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. “When I was seven, I wore a black NASA jacket every single day," says Madrone. A quarter century later, after earning two degrees and designing robots of all shapes and sizes at MIT, she attained that goal, landing a job at NASA's Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif.

Her work there—on the GigaPan imaging project, a spin-off of the Mars rover missions—was enjoyable, but deep down she didn't find it satisfying. Madrone wanted her toils to have greater social impact. So after careful thought, she decided to apply her background in robotics to solving some of the problems of renewable energy. Her new ambition is “to make solar energy actually work." She's now pursuing that objective at Otherlab in San Francisco, where she's doing R&D that could one day make solar energy competitive with coal, even in the developing world.

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IEEE President’s Note: Looking to 2050 and Beyond

The importance of future-proofing IEEE

4 min read
Photo of K. J. Ray Liu

What will the future of the world look like? Everything in the world evolves. Therefore, IEEE also must evolve, not only to survive but to thrive.

How will people build communities and engage with one another and with IEEE in the future? How will knowledge be acquired? How will content be curated, shared, and accessed? What issues will influence the development of technical standards? How should IEEE be organized to be most impactful?

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The Device That Changed Everything

Transistors are civilization’s invisible infrastructure

2 min read
A triangle of material suspended above a base

This replica of the original point-contact transistor is on display outside IEEE Spectrum’s conference rooms.

Randi Klett

I was roaming around the IEEE Spectrum office a couple of months ago, looking at the display cases the IEEE History Center has installed in the corridor that runs along the conference rooms at 3 Park. They feature photos of illustrious engineers, plaques for IEEE milestones, and a handful of vintage electronics and memorabilia including an original Sony Walkman, an Edison Mazda lightbulb, and an RCA Radiotron vacuum tube. And, to my utter surprise and delight, a replica of the first point-contact transistor invented by John Bardeen, Walter Brittain, and William Shockley 75 years ago this month.

I dashed over to our photography director, Randi Klett, and startled her with my excitement, which, when she saw my discovery, she understood: We needed a picture of that replica, which she expertly shot and now accompanies this column.

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This Gift Will Help Your Aspiring Engineer Learn Technology

Know someone that is hard to shop for? We have the perfect gift for you.

4 min read