Celebrating Our 2021 Interns
by Daniel Sturman, Chief Technology Officer
Product & Tech People & Culture
I’ve talked a lot about how the complexity of what we’re building requires an extremely talented team—and that team doesn’t just include the talent we have today. “Take the long view” is one of Roblox’s values and it’s a phrase you’ll hear all the time in the company. Nowhere is that value more applicable than when we think about building and growing our team. The metaverse is a generational project, something that people will be working on long after we’ve all retired, which is why we’re constantly in search of the emerging innovators that will develop the next generation of technological advancements.
Speaking of emerging innovators, the Roblox intern class of 2021 gave their final presentations last week, marking the end of both this year’s program and the summer season. We had a great group of interns this summer who delivered impressive projects, so I thought I’d take a moment to recognize how amazing and important our interns are, both to me and to Roblox as a company, and highlight some of their exciting work.
One timely project was related to our recent rollout of spatial voice chat on the platform. An essential question with a feature like spatial voice is: How do we moderate it and keep it safe? Max Zhang (UCLA ‘22) worked with the voice team to build our first internal proof-of-concept related to audio recording and secure storage for moderation. Max showed some impressive initiative, taking the functionality of the moderation tool well beyond the original scope.
Most of the Roblox app you use—on phone or soon PC—is written in the same language our community of developers use: Lua. Using Lua internally is how we approach device-independent development and enables us to deploy to as many platforms as we do. Eunice Chen (Carnegie Mellon ‘22) took a key part of what was a native-device component—our login and signup flow—and built out the Lua equivalent. This gives us a single place to innovate and, most importantly, makes that flow easier, more secure, and more elegant.
Roblox always has to consider scale and load, and, in particular, that load comes on quickly with events featuring Lil Nas X, Zara Larsson, or recently KSI. Amanda Tomlinson (UC San Diego ‘22) built a system that pre-warms our Content Distribution Network (CDN) for these events so it is primed and ready before the event begins. This new system has already seen action as we used it to support the KSI launch party this past August.
The last two projects I want to highlight demonstrate some of the interesting AI work at Roblox. Today we have built-in pathfinding on Roblox based on A* search to make it easier for creators to automate agents in an experience. However, A* search does not take into account the steering angle of the agent, which can be problematic as agents such as cars cannot immediately turn at large angles. Vivian Jiang (Cornell ‘22, my alma mater – Go Big Red!) used Hybrid A* Search, which takes into account maximum steering angle to provide a better tool for automating vehicles.
The second project is around automatic translation, which is essential to how we deploy worldwide, as the majority of our tens of millions of experiences are created by small entrepreneurial teams or individuals that don’t have large translation teams at their disposal. This approach has worked great with straight text, but text is often embedded in images! Anson Chen (University of Maryland ‘22) took on that challenge and built a Studio plugin that localizes images by translating any text content that’s present.
And obviously, an internship is not just about the projects but also about the people you get to work with, learn from, and hopefully even laugh with! I had a great “growth experience” with our interns this summer when I did our own local version of a Hot Ones Challenge while answering their questions. Our interns heard from teams across the company like Audiovisual, Content Platform, Universal Content, and Growth on how they are helping build the metaverse; met industry professionals outside of Roblox like Dr. Chela White-Ramsey to discuss overcoming imposter syndrome; and even had a virtual dance party hosted by 3D artist and VR enthusiast DJ Celeste. All of these experiences allowed our interns to get to know us better, to gain a sense of how a rapidly growing company operates, and even see it’s not all about status and deliverables!
We ask a lot of our interns because we want them to know that their work matters to us. This internship is an opportunity for growth, as well as an opportunity for them to make their marks and set themselves up for future career success. We set a high bar at Roblox and hiring is competitive, but when we believe that a candidate has what it takes to immediately join us as a new grad, we do not hesitate to extend an offer. At the same time, our primary goal is to ensure a fantastic experience during the summer. I look back on my internships (way too many years ago) which had a big impact on my future career. I strive for Roblox to have the same life-long impact on our interns that I was so lucky to benefit from.
P.S. Interested in interning at Roblox? We are currently recruiting interns and new grads, so check out corp.roblox.com/careers/ and see if there’s a role that’s right for you.