Hands-on Experience at Companies Throughout the State
July 18, 2012
WEST HAVEN, CONN. -- If system engineering majors at the University of New Haven spent the summer at the beach, they would figure out the most efficient way to build a sand castle there.
But summer at the beach is not an option for them. All of them are spending their break not working on their tans but learning about computer languages, project management and engineering design.
They not only are thrilled about working over their break but they are also gaining valuable hands-on experience and getting paid as well as part of an intensive internship program which places the students with some of the top manufacturing companies in Connecticut.
“This is going to help my career because I’m getting experience first-hand and learning new skill sets,” says Adam D. Sipperly, a senior from Torrington, Conn., who is working this summer at Hamilton Sundstrand in Windsor Locks, Conn., a leading designer and manufacturer of aerospace systems. “The more I learn now, the better off I’ll be when I settle into a real career.”
Sipperly says he is working on a programming project that relies on Java and HTML, computer languages he did not know before taking the summer position. These new skills complement the ones he learned in system engineering classes at UNH – one of only a few programs of its kind offered in the United States.
“I’ve learned a lot at UNH and it has helped me to prepare for this internship,” he says. “Some classes I didn’t think would be relevant have helped me out a lot and some classes that I thought would be very helpful have only come into play a few times.”
The core of the UNH system engineering program emphasizes hands-on experience, notes Amy Thompson, assistant professor and coordinator of the program. “Every junior and senior system engineering student has a paid internship this summer earning between $17 and $24 an hour,” she says.
“Many of these students are on their second internship. Their experience will make them very attractive as permanent hires and it has certainly given them a taste for what it really means to be a system engineer.”
The internships will help position the students for high-paying jobs in a field CNN Money Magazine reported in 2009 is "the number one job in America." The report said the 10-year job growth for system engineers would be an astounding 45 percent.
Christian Wysocki of Marlborough, Conn., a junior, is a co-op engineering intern at Parker Hannifin Corporation in North Haven, Conn. this summer. There he is learning about operating and repairing pressurized machinery as well as reading fabrication blueprints and creating fabrication drawings using 2D and 3D computer design software.
“The workplace itself as well as my responsibilities turned out to be better than I had expected,” he says. “It is exciting to be a part of a growing company and have the opportunity to be very hands on and then be involved in the design aspect of new or modified products.”
The UNH system engineering program, begun in 2008, has been designed with input from companies in the aerospace, defense and manufacturing industries to help students learn to design, build, and manage systems for what is called product lifecycle considerations. That means they have to consider how the system develops over time, and how its environment can change over time, and then design accordingly.
System engineers must consider manufacturing, assembly, supply chain, logistics, transportation, usability, reliability, maintainability and environmental impacts in their designs, and balance these considerations early in the design process so that the systems are customer friendly.
“If you’re using a product that fits into a complex system (think of your phone and how you, and it, interact with the provider, its supply chain, service providers, and telecommunications networks) then you hope engineering design teams include system engineers who understand these complex and dynamic systems, so that you get better engineered products.” says Thompson.
One of the students, senior Lauren Primovic of Avon, Conn., was selected to intern at Sikorsky Aircraft in Stratford,. Conn. with the System Engineering Process Group after she was awarded a 10-week NASA Space Consortium Scholarship.
“I want to get that ‘real world’ experience before I graduate,” Primovic, originally from Louisville, Ky. “Sikorsky was my number one choice because I knew I was going to get a solid and beneficial experience.”
Having students intern is a commitment for the company they are working at, says Theodora Saunders, manager, system engineering at Sikorsky, who is also an adjunct professor of industrial and system engineering at UNH.
“U.S economic stability and competiveness depends on the availability of a capable engineering workforce, providing us with a competitive advantage as a nation, she says. “Having a pipeline of qualified engineers is critical to support Sikorsky’s vision of being the best Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) aircraft developer and integrator to satisfy its global military and commercial customers.”
Grace Cotnoir, a UNH senior, from Meriden, Conn., is also a NASA-sponsored summer intern at Sikorsky. She works during the academic year at the Sikorsky Engineer-In-Residence (EIR) office at the university.
“Applying what I have learned in class is the most helpful thing about the internship,” she says. “It really helps when you do something, not just read about it.”
Javier Andres Nunez
Another intern, Javier Andres Nunez, a UNH senior from Cali, Colombia, says his summer is focused on using Computer Aided Design (CAD) software to document the organization and flows of production operations at Covidien’s North Haven facility. Nunez has been creating drawings for individual production lines, and then compiling individual layouts into one master layout for the whole factory. These layouts include a complex network of machines, people, and materials that ultimately provides high quality medical devices.
He is also working on a project to analyze capacity and cost to determine whether one or more machines are needed in the model department. Formerly an intern at Colt Defense, Nunez says the internships will help him land a good job after graduation.
Katrina Durgan, a senior from Rochester, N.Y., is working at GE Aviation in Manchester, Conn. She is working in the production area and analyzing process work and flows as an industrial engineering intern.
This is her second summer interning at GE Manchester. She began working there part-time in January of 2011 and worked for eight months. Last fall, however, she was taking 19 credits and didn't have time for an outside job. Over the winter she contacted GE Manchester and returned there in March. Now she works part-time during the school year and full-time during the summer.
“I wanted this internship because I don't like to sit at a desk all day. Manufacturing allows you to be out on the floor working with parts and people. I also have a big interest in aviation,” she says.
Durgan, who is the president of the Institute of Industrial Engineers UNH Student Chapter, is thrilled to be working at GE, a global company with five different businesses and a multitude of opportunities, she says.
“One of the most important things you learn when you start working, especially in manufacturing, is how to communicate with a lot of different people. Another really important thing you learn is how to figure problems out on your own, using the tools you learned in your classes, knowing who to contact to get help, and teaching yourself how to do things the best way. You also learn how to be professional,” she says.
She says the work place is a lot friendlier than she expected. “I have become good friends with a lot of different people here and they are all very helpful. I have found that you have to be self- driven; no one is going to baby you and walk you through every step of your job. If you get bored or stuck, you have to make things happen. When I started I guess I expected to get my hand held a lot more than it did,” she says.
As an example, Durgan says she now works extensively with Excel Visual Basic writing code.
“I had learned the very basics in a UNH class and when I got to GE they asked if I knew how to use Excel. I said yes, so I got a project with Excel. The project went way beyond what I knew about Excel, but I used the basic knowledge that I had and some help from a co-worker to teach myself how to write code in Excel VBA. Now I am an expert and everyone comes to me for help.”
Learning the program wasn’t exactly like spending the summer at the beach but it was fun, she adds.
The University of New Haven is a private, top-tier comprehensive institution recognized as a national leader in experiential education. Founded in 1920 on the campus of Yale University in cooperation with Northeastern University, UNH moved to its current West Haven campus in 1960. The University provides its students with a unique combination of a solid liberal arts education and real-world, hands-on career and research opportunities. UNH enrolls approximately 6,400 students, including nearly 1,800 graduate students and more than 4,600 undergraduates – the majority of whom reside in University housing. Through its College of Arts and Sciences, College of Business, Henry C. Lee College of Criminal Justice and Forensic Sciences, Tagliatela College of Engineering, and College of Lifelong & eLearning, UNH offers 75 undergraduate and graduate degree programs. UNH students have access to more than 50 study abroad programs worldwide and its student-athletes compete in 16 varsity sports in the NCAA Division II’s highly competitive Northeast-10 Conference.