Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Adventures of an Engineering Intern

Julia Thurber is a mechanical engineering senior from Fort Worth, Texas. She's currently interning at the HCJB Global Technology Center. Here's her take: 

Greetings from Elkhart, Indiana! 

I can’t believe that I’m over halfway into my internship, with only four weeks remaining! I’ve learned and done so much during my time here. I almost don’t know where to start. 

With respect to my project, the Equipment Power Protection device, I’ve been working with an Arduino microcontroller and oscilloscope to experiment on and expand the functionality of the existing program. Going into the project I felt like I had a fair grasp on the Arduino programming language and how the microcontroller works, but, as I continue to learn, I am frequently reminded how little I actually know. In fact, the first few weeks at the Technology Center were spent acclimating to the terminology, history, and documentation of the project. Some call this process “climbing the learning curve,” but my supervisor, pictured with me below, more accurately calls it “drinking out of a firehouse, preferably without drowning you.” Like I said, I’m learning a lot.

Part of the reason I’m learning so much is due to the nature of my work. Although I’m a mechanical engineering student, the current state of the project requires electrical and computer engineering knowledge. So, as I read the documentation for the project, I learned all kinds of new things along the way. A typical scenario consisted of me reading a phrase or sentence from the project files, looking up two or three concepts related to that phrase, making a note of any elusive concepts or vocabulary, and then repeating until my notes grew long enough to warrant asking my supervisor. Thankfully my supervisor, and frankly anyone within earshot, is more than willing to explain anything that I struggle with. I’m really blessed by how willing my co-workers are to accept, care for, teach, and truly invest in me. With only 60 people working here, it often feels more like an extended family than a traditional workplace.

I’m really enjoying my project—to the point that it feels like I’m playing all day long. I’ve connected with a great group of people here—both older adults and some closer to my age. My internship is fully funded! It’s always incredible watching God connect all the pieces and provide for all of my needs.

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