Discuss how you obtained your current internship at Jacobs ESSSA Group.
As cliché as it might sound, I obtained my internship by applying online. Coming to ERAU as a transfer student from the University of Alabama in Huntsville, the first place I look each summer for internships is none other than Rocket City. I have a lot of friends in the area that I haven’t seen in a few years, so I always jump at the opportunity to see them.
About a week after submitting my application for numerous positions with multiple companies in the Huntsville area, I received a call from my supervisor to talk a little bit about the internship and ask some interview-type questions. At the end of the 15-minute conversation, he requested an official phone interview with me with one of his colleagues who would be my mentor. For the phone interview, my mentor didn’t show up, but we went on with the interview anyway, and my supervisor asked me to go deeper into my background.
After not hearing back for about two weeks, I received a phone call requesting another interview. This time it was with my supervisor, my mentor, and a third colleague that I would work with. I wasn’t given a specific time, only the day that the interview would take place, so I had to be prepared for an interview at any time. At this point, I already had an offer from another company, so I let the panel know at the end that I had two days to make a decision. I received an offer a day and half later, and the rest is history.
What are your main responsibilities in your position?
Jacobs Technology is an engineering services firm, and the ESSSA Group only ever has one contract, the ESSSA Contract. The ESSSA Contract is a contract with the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. One of our current deliverables is a MATLAB and Simulink simulation that will be uploaded to an emulator to model the behavior of a lunar lander. My role is to develop the portion of the simulation that models the effect of slosh dynamics.
Slosh dynamics refers to the movement of fluid inside another object which is typically undergoing motion. Simply put, how does water move if I shake a water bottle?
Because slosh is a graduate school-level topic, I was never expected to complete the model. I was supposed to create fake parameters, fake data, and create the model from the fake data. That was completed about halfway through my internship. After that, I read through master’s theses and doctoral dissertations to get caught up with everyone else. Now, I am currently taking my fake model, modifying it, and turning it into a real simulation. The difference between the fake model and the deliverable is that the parameters of the physical problem are always changing, so where my model allowed the primary parameter to remain constant, much more advanced code has to be written to allow it to change.
How has your academic coursework assisted you in this position?
My goodness, where do I begin?! If it wasn’t for my coursework, I would have absolutely no idea what anyone was talking about! Statics, Dynamics, and Differential Equations have all been extremely useful since my work is heavily-based in Dynamics. While I was reading through the dissertations, I noticed several partial differential equations, so I’m really glad I decided to take MA 442 (Mathematical Methods for Engineering and Physics II) this past semester as an elective. If I didn’t take it, I wouldn’t have any idea how to interpret a double Fourier series, or what in the world a Bessel function was. In addition, knowing how to code is extremely important. Thanks to my EGR 115 (Introduction to Computing for Engineers) professor, I really learned how to think outside of the box and develop my own algorithms.
This summer, I developed a passion for a field I knew nothing about: Controls. I haven’t even taken my Controls course yet! In addition to my interest in Aerodynamics, I also want to study Controls after graduation. I’m heavily considering a Double Masters when I attend graduate school. I’m sure there is some type of position that combines Guidance, Navigation, and Control with Aerodynamics.
Please give any advice to other students thinking about doing an internship.
Definitely do it! It can only help you out in the long run. Many of my friends think it’s only for people that have completed their junior year. I’m going into my fourth year of school, and this is my second internship. I’ve gained so many connections nationwide, not only because of my geographic location, but also because of the other interns you meet from many different schools. Over the past few years, I’ve met people from UC San Diego, Georgia Tech, Rensselaer Polytech, Purdue, University of Michigan, and many other top-notch engineering schools, including our sister campus in Daytona Beach!
When looking for a job, whether it’s after graduation or a summer internship, it’s all about what you can offer the company. If you already have real-world experience, you already appear more valuable to the hiring managers. After talking with some hiring managers with Jacobs, NASA, and other companies in Huntsville, I was given some fantastic advice about the professional engineering world for those studying mechanical or aerospace engineering. Many job requisitions are looking for people that have background knowledge in electrical engineering. Though the position is for a graduate in mechanical engineering, there is almost always a requirement in the requisition about circuits or other topics related to electrical engineering. If you’re like me, and electrical engineering isn’t your thing, then you should have a strong skillset in coding and being fluent in multiple programming languages. Both of these are a result from industry lacking in electrical engineering, computer engineering, and computer science majors.
Make connections. Industry isn’t about WHAT you know, it’s about WHO you know. Who recognizes your name? Can they vouch for your work and work ethic? What kind of influence do they have in the hiring process? Go to the Industry/Career Expo each year and meet the hiring managers that come out. Attend professional conferences and hand out your resume to everyone that will accept them. Do whatever it takes to make your name known. The more people that recognize your name, the better shape you’ll be in for internships and full-time jobs after graduation. Many companies hire their interns full-time after graduation.
How has Career Services and/or your internship assisted you with your career aspirations?
Use Career Services. The school provides them at no extra cost to us. In the real world, you can find most services that Career Services provides such as resume reviews, mock interviews, etc., but they are at a charge per visit. You’re already paying for it, so take full advantage of it. At the Prescott campus, Melissa and Laura do a fantastic job! Melissa has always been there for me with last-minute tips and tricks, even when the interviewer wants to have the phone interview at 9:00 at night.