My internship as a hardware engineer for F-35 pilot training devices

Christones Michel

Christones Michel, electrical engineering student

Name: Christones Michel

Hometown: I was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, but spent most of my life in South Florida.

What is your major? Electrical engineering with a concentration in programming

Where did you intern? I interned at Lockheed Martin Rotary and Mission Systems under the position of college student tech specialist in Orlando, Florida.

What did you do there? I worked as a hardware engineer for the F-35 Pilot Training Devices.

What projects did you work on? I worked on the hardware design for the F-35 Full Mission Simulators (FMS). F-35 Full Mission Simulators are scale-sized simulators for the fifth-generation Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II jet fighter. The simulators are used to train pilots by imitating the experience that a person would feel if they were flying a real F-35 jet fighter. I worked in the hardware team for the F-35 FMS for three months in the summer of 2017. The simulators consist of thousands of parts and all of these parts much be included in electrical drawings. Parts include the joystick, buttons, helmet, monitor displays, wires, 3D printed parts and speakers.

How did you get your internship? I made good use of the services offered through the Career and Talent Development Department at FIU’s Engineering Center. Throughout my three years at FIU, I met with the Career and Talent Development team to help me construct and polish my resume and interviewing skills. They held a Lockheed Martin information session and that’s when I got the chance to learn about the company and how to obtain an internship with them. I also had the great opportunity to meet the Lockheed Martin campus relation recruiter.

What advice do you have for those beginning the internship process? Internships are the best opportunities to truly learn the required hard and soft skills needed to become a successful professional prior to accepting a full-time position. Ask as many questions as you can to help you professionally. Asking your colleagues and managers questions about their work experience, career lessons and performance feedback will provide you with a lot of perspective.

How did your internship connect back to your coursework? I’m not sure if the particular work I did in my internship connects back to my experiences in my classes. However, my experience in working on personal projects and projects for FIU’s Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) helped me tremendously. Analyzing parts and their specifications are skills that were necessary for my internship and I developed these skills with IEEE.

What was the coolest thing about your internship or that happened during your internship? I got the chance to pilot the F-35 Full Mission Simulators. I was more than ecstatic to test the products that our company designed and produced. Most interns did not get the opportunity to pilot the F-35 Full Mission Simulators because the engineering department is separated from the manufacturing floor. My close friend at Lockheed Martin and I loved to venture throughout the site and learn as much as we could from all the departments. While visiting the manufacturing floor, the employees invited us to pilot the F-35 Full Mission Simulators. Most would be amazed to know that the F-35 is not as difficult to pilot as it seems. I would compare the experience to driving a car, but with more buttons and pedals. My friend and I joke, but probably anyone could learn how to take off a jet fighter from the ground. Landing is another story. It took me more than 15 tries to land the jet without crashing. I will always remember that day because it was also the last day of my internship.

What did you like most about your experience?  The tasks I was assigned to work on were identical to the tasks of full-time employees. It was a great feeling to know that my work was valuable.

What did you learn about yourself? I learned that communication and other soft skills are crucial aspects of the job. Communicating with my team and other departments was necessary to make sure my daily tasks were aligned with the goal that the company wanted to reach.

How did the position increase your professional confidence? Prior to my internship, I didn’t know whether or not I would be a successful electrical engineer because I didn’t know what it took to be successful. Having completed this internship with positive feedback from my manager and my team, made me realize I now know what skills I need to continue my success.

How did you expand your professional network? I had the opportunity to gain some friends who I still keep in touch with and with a mentor that gave me some of the best advice on how to grow professionally as a leader.