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Elemental Excelerator

Mechanical Engineer

Yard Stick PBC

Yard Stick PBC

Oakland, CA, USA
Posted on Tuesday, July 18, 2023
About The Role
Yard Stick is looking for a Mechanical Engineer to help us combat climate change with soil.
Yard Stick designs and builds soil probes to measure carbon sequestration in cropping and grazing lands. Our probes are both high-precision optical instruments and ruggedized field tools, and we need you to help us design, build, and test them! We are a remote-first company with a hardware team in Oakland, CA. You will work closely with our software team, and periodically join our field team for in-field testing across the United States!
Our custom soil carbon probes are designed and built in-house. Our probes consist primarily of a ruggedized spectrometer and optical system which can penetrate up to 1 meter into the ground to collect data about the soil. That data is then uploaded to our cloud infrastructure where machine learning models translate it into soil carbon measurements. Our carbon estimates are only as good as the data we collect, so it is of utmost importance that our probes remain accurate and reliable throughout long sampling periods in extreme field conditions!
Our hardware team is still small and lean! This role will provide opportunities to work on a wide variety of projects, from brainstorming and prototyping of sensors and mechanical systems, to test fixture and calibration process design, to hands-on building and field testing of our hardware. You will be working with field, data, and R&D teams as well as our software, electrical, and mechanical engineers on the hardware team to accomplish these tasks. The ideal candidate will be able to own projects from requirements stage to implementation and data review with strong attention to detail and inter-team communication.
To date we have built a handful of prototypes of our soil probes, and tested them across thousands of acres of agricultural lands. Our machine learning models have shown unprecedented accuracy in predicting soil carbon content as demonstrated by in-field tests earlier this year. Our priority is now on designing and building production units of the probes and deploying them ASAP. Further hardware development aims at increasing the variety of land we can access and improving the accuracy and efficiency of the soil carbon measurement process. This role will be critical in continuing the transition of our hardware from development to production-quality.
This role will report to Dalton Colen, Yard Stick’s Lead Hardware Engineer, and will be based out of our Oakland, CA hardware lab. Yard Stick is a remote-first company but this role will be required to work in-person with our hardware team at least three days a week. This is a dream job for someone who loves working hands-on with hardware, collecting and analyzing data, designing experiments and test fixtures and wants to join a rapidly-growing startup with literal planetary-scale impact. Travel to test sites ~2x per year is encouraged to see the sampling process with the field team and ensure hardware runs smoothly.
Applicants must be authorized to work for any employer in the U.S. Unfortunately we are unable to sponsor or take over sponsorship of an employment Visa at this time.
We’d like to hire this person to start ASAP.
About Yard Stick PBC
Yard Stick is a remote-first climate tech startup with founders based in Boston, MA and Oakland, CA. We are on a mission to reverse climate change with agriculture. Scientists and farmers alike know that climate-friendly agricultural practices have the potential to remove atmospheric CO2 at gigaton/year scale. When these practices are adopted, more carbon is stored in soils, improving soil health and fighting climate change. But significant measurement challenges have held soil carbon efforts back - until now.
By reducing the cost of soil carbon measurement by 70-90%, Yard Stick will dramatically expand the opportunities for evidence-based regenerative practices to simultaneously improve ecosystem health, increase farmer income, and combat climate change.
Current soil carbon measurement technologies are slow, expensive, and cumbersome, relying on conventional soil cores and labs to quantify carbon stocks. In contrast, Yard Stick is fast and cheap - without sacrificing accuracy. As a testament to our technology’s potential, alongside our scientific collaborators, we were recently awarded $18M across six USDA Climate-Smart Commodities projects, and we have additional grant financing from ARPA-E, NSF, CDFA, and other discerning grant-makers. For more background, check out some coverage of Yard Stick in AgFunder, TechCrunch, Treehugger, or TechCrunch again.
We've also raised money from top climate VCs, including Breakthrough Energy Ventures (Bill Gates' climate fund), Lowercarbon Capital (Chris and Crystal Sacca's climate fund), MCJ Collective, and others. Details of the financing aren’t announced in a press release or article, because that can feel a bit cart before the horse, but we're happy to share more detail about our funding when we chat.
We offer competitive salary and equity, health/dental/vision insurance, a 401k, and home-office reimbursements. We have a number of founders and other team members with young families and have a strong track record of creative, flexible approaches to hours and communication expectations which let folks feel great about their commitments both to Yard Stick and their lives outside of work. We’re also a PBC, or public benefit corporation, which is an alternative corporate structure which protects our ability to prioritize climate impact over profits if the two are in conflict. You can read more about PBCs in this article which also features Yard Stick.


  • Design and build calibration and test fixtures to assess accuracy and robustness of soil probes.
  • Assist in the design, build, calibration, test, ship, and maintenance of probes.
  • Work with soil science and machine learning teams to interpret data trends and inform future sensor design.
  • Work with field sampling and R&D teams to identify in-field soil sampling pain points and develop hardware solutions to improve process efficiency.
  • Develop and execute test procedures for custom hardware in agricultural and grazing fields.
  • Travel within US 2-3x per year to perform in-situ user testing of probes with field sampling team.

Qualifications (Must Have)

  • 3-4 years creative mechanical design experience.Examples of owning a project from concept through implementation.
  • Familiarity with prototyping processes and manufacturing methods.
  • Strong understanding of common engineering fundamentals.
  • Passion for climate impact!
  • Enthusiasm to learn, teach, and collaborate.

Qualification (Nice to Have)

  • Experience with Python development: writing sensor data acquisition scripts, jupyter notebook data analysis, git version control.
  • Experience with mechanical design for thermal management and ingress protection.
  • Experience with basic electronics.
  • Experience designing and building calibration processes.
Our Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Yard Stick’s impact goals go well beyond climate science. Why? Our company operates primarily in the US agricultural sector, which is predicated on centuries of mass land theft and disenfranchisement of Native and Black people. This harm continues today. If we’re going to work in this sector, we need to leave it better than we found it.
Consistent with our core value of “Pursue Justice,” we speak up about these issues, and we support emerging solutions and relevant policy efforts such as H.R.40 and S.300. We also publicly highlight the risk of further racial discrimination in emerging agricultural legislation like the Growing Climate Solutions Act.
Regarding hiring and culture, we work to create a work environment where everyone feels confident sharing their ideas, problem-solving happens openly and collaboratively, and mistake-making is welcomed. We also standardize our interview process and questions to reduce “likeability” bias, benchmark salaries against industry databases to reduce negotiation, and utilize tools like the Gender Decoder. Climate change is arguably the most complex challenge ever faced by humanity - we need all of humanity activated to fight back, and that motivates us to build a diverse team.