Self-taught robotics expert Terrence Southern has built over 2000 robots to help Fortune 100 companies

Terrence Southern has built more than 2000 robots on projects across North America for several Fortune 100 companies over his 20-year career span. Photo credit: Terrence Southern

Terrence Southern found his love for robotics during an internship at General Motors in 1999 but had no mentors when he nursed the passion to be a robotics engineer. In his early twenties, he experimented with his raw skills and talent, building a voice-activated robotic instructor that wheeled around, issuing grades to students in class.  

He found this innovative project fascinating, which inspired him and bolstered his confidence to aspire to higher heights in the world of technology, particularly in the field of robotics.

Terrence’s only challenge was the near absence of mentors to act as signposts of motivation in exploring the field of robotics. However, he leveraged those he made while in the engineering field. Due to limited knowledge in the field of robotics at the time, he worked extra to deepen his acquaintance with robotic space in a bid to stay ahead; to him, this made him look like the Jackie Robinson of Robotics.

In the wake of struggling to grasp the concept of this new field, he rather found his source of personal growth through self-learning. When he finally made it to the top, he carried one lesson to train others, particularly persons of color. His journey was also compounded due to the lack of representation of people of African descent in the field of robotics.

This, therefore, became the main driving force for establishing Illuminate STEM – to create an enabling environment where underrepresented communities are encouraged, empowered, and equipped to aspire in the field of robotics and innovation, according to robotics education.

While Terrence draws growth from corporate challenges as the Global Lead Robotics and Automation Engineer at GE Global Research, he finds joy in opening the doors for children who by virtue of where they are, have limited access to science, technology, engineering, and maths. He has built more than 2000 robots on projects across North America for several Fortune 100 companies over his 20-year career span.

Terrence holds a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from the Tennessee State University in Nashville, where he studied from 1998 to 2003. He also studied electrical engineering at Alabama State University. His work has offered him many platforms to share insights with global professionals in the field of technology, including his participation in the Aspen Institute Roundtable discussion on Artificial Intelligence participant and a 2012 BEYA recipient.

He has also shared knowledge at multiple Robotics & Artificial Intelligence conferences and Youth STEM events. After over two decades in the AI and Robotics space, Terrence’s impact was recognized with many awards from the industry and his community; his achievements have been given prominence in global publications. He believes confidence and inspiring oneself can enable anyone to surmount any challenge before them.

Last Edited by:Editor Updated: June 11, 2023


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