by Will Broaddus
CNHI News Service
NORTH ANDOVER — It is less than two miles from North Andover High School to the Amazon facility that is due to open in August at Osgood Landing.
But for Tej Sheth, who graduated from the former and designed robotic systems for the latter, getting from one to the other has been quite a journey.
Amazon’s five-story structure in North Andover represents a $400 million investment by the company, and contains 3,835,500 square feet of gross floor area that will be used as an e-commerce storage, warehouse, and distribution facility.
“My contribution to this site, along with the others I’ve worked on, is the systems design of the robotics on each floor,” said Sheth, who now lives in Cambridge. “I modeled and simulated the robotic systems to meet the capacity that the fulfillment network needs. I also provide each site (with) the technical layout drawings needed for deployment of all the robotic equipment.”
Sheth worked as Solutions Design Lead on 17 robotic fulfillment centers that Amazon is launching in 2022-2023, and he worked on a similar number that opened in 2021.
He has been working for the online retailer since 2020, when he graduated from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and says his career got its start in North Andover.
“I feel incredibly fortunate to have been part of the North Andover High School robotics team and to have had mentorship from Mike Motherway for my four years in high school,” Sheth said. “Competing as a member of the robotics team was a unique experience that fostered my interests in technology.”
Motherway has been at the high school since 2005, where he teaches a class in robotics, in addition to leading 10 robotics teams each year. They compete with 60 robotics teams at two tournaments that North Andover hosts in the fall and winter, each of which features equipment and rules designed by VEX Robotics.
“Growing up I had enjoyed tinkering with DIY projects and reading Popular Mechanics magazine at home,” Sheth said. “Yet it wasn’t until joining the robotics team in high school that a career path in this space was even tangible.”
Along with everything he was learning about the sensors and circuits that make robots work, the process of trying to get better while preparing for tournaments was key to Sheth’s development.
“I quickly became obsessed with the cycle of conceptualizing mechanical designs on a whiteboard, iterating through prototypes, and testing our software before the next competition,” he said. “In hindsight, this competitive spirit taught me a lot about learning by applying myself. There was always room for improvement and that’s what motivated me.”
Sheth said that, although he was not a perfect student academically in high school, he enjoyed project-based learning, and Worcester Polytechnic Institute allowed him to continue in this vein. Sheth graduated with a double major in robotics engineering and mechanical engineering with distinction.
During his summers in college, Sheth built up his engineering resume by interning with companies on the North Shore and Merrimack Valley.
“I started with Amazon Robotics in 2020, working with the Solutions Design Group,” he said. “There were big shoes to fill when I jumped into the role, so I focused on absorbing as much as I could about fulfillment operations and how our robotic systems are optimized for the user experience of our associates and achieving customer demand.”
Sheth has been a Senior Solutions Design Engineer at Amazon since late in 2021.
“focusing on concept design of advanced technologies that are in the roadmap for launch in a few years,” he said.
But while his career at Amazon continues to progress, Sheth has maintained his ties to North Andover High School robotics by working as a referee at tournaments.
“I refereed at the last event in November 2021 and try to at most competitions since I left North Andover High School in 2016,” Sheth said. “I still get excited seeing the energy at VEX competitions. I plan to continue volunteering in the coming years.”