My internship as a test engineer for F-35 fighter jets

David Quiroga, radio frequency electrical engineer at Northrop Grumman.

David Quiroga, radio frequency electrical engineer at Northrop Grumman.

Name: David J. Quiroga

Hometown: Born in Mendoza, Argentina, and raised in Miami, Florida

What is your major? Electrical engineering with a concentration in communication systems

Where did you intern? I interned at Northrop Grumman in San Diego, California.

What did you do there? I worked as a Radio Frequency (RF) test engineer for the Joint Strike Fighter F-35 Program. The program’s purpose is to create next generation aircraft for the military, promising significant advances in military capability.

What projects did you work on? I worked on testing and writing code for Dual Channel Transceiver (DCTR) for F-35 fighter jets. I also developed, modified and implemented code in LabVIEW. LabVIEW is a systems engineering software for applications that require test, measurement and control with rapid access to hardware and data insight. It is required to improve Common Hardware Test Adapter (CHTA) low-level indicators and controls for virtual instruments interface, as well to test hardware and execute code to verify module functionality. Furthermore, I supported calibration, troubleshooting and validation for DCTR calibration/board functional test station.

How did you get your internship? I spent time preparing myself for internships by visiting the Career and Talent Development Office at FIU’s Engineering Center. They helped me improve my interviewing skills. As for how I got my internship … I met Northrop Grumman’s hiring manager when I attended the 2017 National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) Conference, and I showed my interest in radio frequencies. The hiring manager was interested in a battery-powered vehicle project I was working on with FIU’s Eco Engineering Club to present at the 2017 Shell Eco Marathon competition. He made an internship offer for summer 2017 at the San Diego facility.

What advice do you have for those beginning the internship process? Internships are great to have a taste of how a full-time job is, but it is important to research before about the position you will be in before starting it. It is also helpful to find out which software the company uses.

How did your internship connect back to your coursework? I have always wanted to design communication systems. It’s always been an interest of mine. One of the classes that helped me realize I can combine design with communication was the Antennas class. This class combines theory with antennas design by using ANSYS High Frequency Electromagnetic Field Simulation (HFSS). HFSS utilizes 3D full wave Finite Element Method (FEM) field solver to analyze and compute the electrical behavior of complex components. It helps students design components like a dipole antenna and test it for functionality before physically building it.

What was the coolest thing about your internship or that happened during your internship? I worked as an RF electrical engineer in the labs testing modules for the F-35 fighter jets. I was granted access to do an online LabVIEW tutorial that is free for employees. It helped me understand and do practice exercises that helped me through the testing process. Furthermore, I spent many hours shadowing and helping a Northrop employee who has more than 10 years of experience working with LabVIEW.

What did you like most about your experience?  I liked the fact that once I started my internship and showed interest in my tasks, my manager facilitated all the tools and software needed to work and accomplish projects.

What did you learn about yourself? I learned that one of the most important skills is verbal and written communication. It is key for growing in your career and to finish projects faster and more efficiently.

How did the position increase your professional confidence? Prior to my internship, I was not sure which kind of work I would be doing. Now I have a better understanding of how the industry works, of new technologies and of predicting the fastest-growing jobs.

How did you expand your professional network? I have met great people who were my mentors though my internship. They showed me how important it is to keep in touch with colleagues. One great way is to keep updating your LinkedIn profile with your most recent projects and add all the skills you have gained throughout college.