By: Meghana Krishna
Growing up, Lindsey Cross wasn’t very fond of STEM. An athlete with a love for writing, Lindsey had career aspirations unrelated to math or science.
“When I was younger, my goal was to become the first woman in the NBA or a journalist,” Lindsey laughs.
Though she has yet to achieve NBA fame, the Aurora, Colorado native has made a name for herself in the tech arena. Now a mechanical design engineer for Sphero, Lindsey develops robotic toys that change the way kids experience coding. She is the founder and owner of a tech consulting firm that helps inventors bring their products to life. In her free time, Lindsey also mentors youth interested in tech, sharing career and life advice.
Lindsey’s interest in math and physics was sparked by her high school calculus teacher, a former NASA engineer with a passion for STEM that rubbed off on her.
“At first, I was almost ashamed to be into physics and math,” Lindsey says. “I didn’t really think that kind of stuff was cool. But my calculus teacher would get so excited about the topics he taught that I couldn’t help but to share in that feeling.”
Upon graduation, Lindsey enrolled at the University of Southern California. During her first semester, she befriended Kara, an aspiring aeronautical engineer who lived in her dorm. Lindsey became intrigued by the projects Kara worked on and was fascinated by the concepts she learned in class. Inspired further by the growing aerospace industry in the Los Angeles area, Lindsey graduated with a degree in Aerospace Engineering four years later. “I’ve loved engineering ever since and I’ve never looked back,” she says.
Lindsey spent the first six years of her career designing and testing mechanical assemblies at SEAKR, a spacecraft electronics supplier in the greater Denver area. Her role at SEAKR exposed her to the challenges and importance of manufacturing-focused design. Shortly after joining SEAKR, Lindsey also began attending local startup events where she networked with inventors and company founders.
“A lot of the founders I spoke to said they would really benefit from having a mechanical engineer on their team to help in areas like CAD (computer-aided design) and prototyping, but couldn’t really afford to hire one on full-time,” says Lindsey. “I realized there was a huge need in the market that wasn’t being filled.”
Lindsey began consulting on the side, helping startups refine product designs and navigate the manufacturing process. She eventually quit her full-time job at SEAKR to found Luhu Design, a consulting company aimed at helping early inventors navigate the mechanical design process, from initial concept generation to CAD model refinements to testing and manufacturing. Lindsey, who is the sole owner and lead designer for Luhu, is focused on helping inventors with little to no experience in prototyping.
“I had a client that was working on ski setups for the military,” says Lindsey. “He had a preliminary prototype and wanted to address various issues found during testing. We worked together for about a year and not only produced awesome prototypes that tested well, but also started up a small production run.”
About a year after launching Luhu, Lindsey applied for a full-time position as a mechanical engineer for Sphero, a consumer robotics company working to create educational play experiences for kids. Though she was initially hesitant to commit to a full-time job with her hands full at Luhu, Lindsey had admired Sphero’s mission for years and missed the dynamic that came with a more structured job. Today, she works on the design of Sphero’s latest products. Working both in a managerial and technical capacity, Lindsey brainstorms problem-solving ideas every day.
“We come up with crazy ideas to solve problems in the learning and education sphere and whittle them down through research and testing to figure out what actually makes sense,” she says.
According to Lindsey, Sphero’s goal is to bring code to life in the simplest way possible for kids who are new to programming. The company develops robots that can be programmed through a smartphone app that enables users to instantly upload their code to a microcontroller via Bluetooth. Sphero’s robots allow kids to see modifications in their code play out in real-time and debug with ease.
“Oftentimes, kids starting out in programming end up just staring at a screen,” says Lindsey. “We wanted to create something that would help blend coding with physical reality.”
As part of her day-to-day job, Lindsey works closely with industrial designers to ensure all products are manufacturable and cost-effective. She collaborates with electrical, systems, and software engineers to ensure the seamless integration and functionality of all products. She also works extensively in CAD.
For now, consulting has taken a back seat to her full-time job. However, Lindsey continues to dedicate herself to both efforts, taking on more consulting gigs during slower times of the year at Sphero. “Right now, the consulting project I’m working on takes about 10% of my time, but that's on top of giving 120% at Sphero,” says Lindsey. “I’m hoping to eventually use my experience to become a director of hardware and maybe a CTO.”
Lindsey also reflected on the challenges she faced early in her career and shared advice for young people interested in tech: “Earning trust and respect from your coworkers takes time. When you first start, you’ll have a constant sense of imposter syndrome. I had to believe that I was a good engineer and there was a reason I got hired in the first place,” she says.
According to Lindsey, the best way to learn the ins and outs of any facet of STEM is to tinker as much as possible. Learning to build and troubleshoot real-life projects will help teach crucial skills textbooks can’t.
“There are so many resources now on how to make fun projects. Learning the basics of how things come together is so valuable in this industry,” Lindsey says.
Lindsey Cross was featured in Issue No. 2 as an Everyday Changemaker.