After winning Your Extreme in 2017 Fredrik is now pursuing his PhD at Stanford
Fredrik Samdal Solberg (33) is a PhD candidate at Stanford, California
He spends his days in the lab creating the best possible robotic solution for 3D-printing hearts.
In 2017, he was part of the winning team in the "Your Extreme" competition.
Journalist: Anne Wennberg
Photo: Stanford Bio-X | Kongsberg Gruppen | Shutterstock
Oppgaven det året handlet om å bruke teknologi for å skape en effektiv måte å fange plast i havet. Klima og miljø er absolutt noe som engasjerer 33-åringen, men det gjør også skjæringsfeltet mellom medisin og ingeniørfag.
– Da jeg deltok i Your Extreme var jeg NTNU-student, og i 2020 tok jeg master. Jeg begynte litt sent, for jeg satset på fotball før jeg bestemte meg for å bli maskiningeniør, forklarer han på Facetime , glad for å få luftet norsken en solfylt California-morgen.
Fredrik vokste opp i Molde, med en mor som er sykepleier og en far som er ingeniør. Kanskje det bidro til å vekke interessen for å kombinere robotikk med medisin i egen forskning.
– Her jobber bioingeniører, leger og ingeniører side om side på en tverrfaglig lab. Min jobb er å fasilitere ved å gjøre robotikkløsningen best mulig. Det er kjempespennende. Jeg er omtrent halvveis, ferdig om to-tre år, forteller han.
The challenge involved using technology to create an efficient method of capturing plastic waste in the ocean. While climate and environmental issues captivate the 33-year-old, so does the intersection of medicine and engineering.
"When I participated in Your Extreme, I was a student at NTNU (Norwegian University of Science and Technology), where I completed my master's degree in 2020. I started studying a bit late, as I initially pursued a career in football before deciding to become a mechanical engineer," he explains via FaceTime, happy to exercise his Norwegian on a sunny California morning.
Fredrik grew up in Molde, with a mother working a nurse and a father who is an engineer. This inspired his interest in combining robotics with medicine in his own research.
Fredrik Samdal Solberg
“Here, bioengineers, doctors, and engineers work side by side in an interdisciplinary lab. My job is to facilitate by making the robotic solution as good as possible. It's incredibly exciting.”
Surprised And Proud
Fredrik looks back at his participation and victory in Your Extreme with joy.
"We were a group of friends from NTNU who signed up because we knew it could be an exciting opportunity. We didn't know the case task until it was released, and we had 48 hours to develop a solution to remove plastic from the sea. Working on sustainability and a better world appealed to us, and Kongsberg Gruppen (KG) was very supportive. I really appreciated that all participants were celebrated with a grand party, even those who didn't win," he recalls, adding that he was both surprised and proud when they won.
Fredrik believes he gained a lot from participating, and he thinks KG followed up excellently even after the competition.
"We were able to present our project in several places. When we were invited to present to KG's top management group, we had our own coach for a week, and learned a lot. They were also adept at booking us for other events, and we presented our project in contexts where both the prime minister and King Harald were present. Your Extreme is definitely something to mention in future job applications," he asserts.
See last year’s invitation here:
The 48-hour case competition is hosted by Kongsberg Gruppen in collaboration with NTNU and USN. Students are invited to solve real-world problems related to technology and sustainability, in groups of 1 - 5. The competition aims to inspire students to think creatively, innovate, and at the same time develop personally. Each year, the winning solution is chosen by a jury during a grand award ceremony.
What is Your Extreme?
However, he stresses that solving the plastic problem in the ocean is not just about smart, technical solutions, but also about political will and action.
"That's why we also got to talk to several politicians in the aftermath of Your Extreme," he says.
He thinks it's great that large companies like KG take responsibility and organize such competitions for students.
"As a student, you spend a lot of time with books. It's mostly theory. Getting to try things in practice, showing creativity and using what you've learned, is great. And the time limit of only 48 hours is a real motivator."
Requires political will
The many presentations the winning team was invited to give also led to a very pleasant surprise:
"Out of the blue, we were nominated for, and won, the 2018 Ambassador of The United States of America’s Young Eagles Award, for demonstrating entrepreneurial spirit and technical creativity in finding a solution to marine plastic pollution."
Perhaps this victory impressed someone at Stanford? After all, he secured a spot there, partially because Martin Steinert, his professor at NTNU, had also spent a period there. The placement and stay are expensive, however. An Aker Scholarship ensures it's possible for the ambitious Norwegian to pursue his PhD at one of the world's most prestigious universities. He also receives several smaller American scholarships. Once Fredrik earns his PhD, he expects to return to Norway.
"I'd like to bring the knowledge home and maybe develop an environment around robotics and technology. If KG ventures into biotechnology, they should get in touch," he says with a big smile.
"It's a fantastic company, with many cool projects. The first time I encountered KG was when participating in Revolve NTNU as a student. I was involved in developing a race car for Formula Student where they were the main sponsor," shares Fredrik Samdal Solberg, who we will likely hear more from in the coming years.