Dabin Choe, a sophomore in MechEng, works on a "smart factory" concept at ETRI and experiences real teamwork--Korean style
Dabin Choe, center, with other MIT-Korea interns on a weekend cultural excursion to learn about Korea's tea culture.

Machine learning algorithms and smart factories

In the summer of 2014, Dabin Choe--a sophomore in mechanical engineering--started her internship at a top research institute in South Korea, the Electronics & Telecommunications Research Insitute (ETRI). She was placed with the Real & Emotional Sense Convergence Service Platform Team. "This team in particular worked with facial and body metrics in order to infer the user's emotion based upon posture and expression," she said. "I was tasked with developing a machine learning algorithm to analyze pictures of people and to determine their age and gender from the visual data."

Dabin's internship work later turned to brainstorming a new idea of interest to the South Korean government. She was given the opportunity to join "a task force put together by [the department director] to research the concept of a 'Smart Factory' for a proposal that was to be presented to [the Ministry of Science, ICT, and Future Planning]. I was responsible for researching the background on the idea of the smart factory, and presented the entire presentation to the rest of the taskforce." Dabin's research and presentation was included in later presentations to government officials by ETRI.

True meaning of teamwork

Dabin was familiar with and had been to Korea before, but her MIT-Korea internship would take her far deeper into Korean culture. "It was challenging at first because I wasn’t totally accustomed to the workplace culture, and I learned a lot the first couple of days by observing how people interacted with each other," she said. Language was also a challenge at first despite having an advanced Korean proficiency, and Dabin was afraid of making cultural mistakes by misusing honorrific langauge or titles that make the Korean language unique. "I eventually learned to deal with this by acting more confident and learning from interactions between coworkers. I also came to realize that my co-workers/team leaders were more forgiving with me because they recognized that I was not a native Korean," she noted.

Dabin also learned that teamwork entails far more in the Korean workplace than at home. "Working in Korea was most definitely a drastic change from what I was used to, with more group bonding done in two weeks than I have done in the past four years of my life," she said. This deeper conception of teamwork "opened my eyes up to the very close ties that exist in the Korean workplace, and inspired me to be open and active in trying to get to know my co-workers, which is something I hadn’t been doing (as I was rather shy and lacking confidence in my Korean skills). . . Through MISTI, I was able to experience Korea in a completely new way, and learn to actually become an integrated part of the culture and community."

  • Korea
  • Internship
  • MechE