My internship as an electrical engineer at Northrop Grumman

Antonio Rubio (third person from the left) with his colleagues at Northrop Grumman in Ogden, Utah.

Antonio Rubio (third person from the left) with his colleagues at Northrop Grumman in Ogden, Utah.

Name: Antonio Rubio

Hometown: Miami, Florida

What is your major? I’m an electrical engineering major.

Where did you intern? What did you do there? This summer, I did an internship at Northrop Grumman Corporation (NGC) in Ogden, Utah. My position title was electrical engineering intern. While there, I worked on the MEDL (Master Engineering Data List) Team in support of the Minuteman III missile system. The Minuteman III is a United States land-based missile in service with the Air Force. The Air Force contracts companies, like Northrop Grumman, to continue enhancing missiles like this one. As an intern, my main task was to develop a software tool that would automatically check a digital parts list for errors and calculate the accuracy. I ended up building a python-based desktop application called the “MEDL Checker 5000.” Python is a type of programming language. The desktop application I built allowed the developers of the parts list to frequently check the accuracy of their work before the software goes into a weapons system.

How did you get your internship? I attended the 2018 BEYA (Black Engineer of the Year Awards) Conference. It’s a really good career fair that is held annually in Washington, D.C. There were a lot of companies present including Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, Boston Scientific, NASA, Raytheon, Chevron, Texas Instruments, GM (General Motors) and many more. I highly recommend attending this conference to anyone. It was a great experience and I was fortunate enough to interview with Northrop Grumman and they offered me a position right then.

What advice do you have for those beginning the internship process? From my experience, recruiters are looking for three things. The first thing they look at is your GPA. Most companies have a minimum GPA requirement. My advice is focus in your classes to maintain as high of a GPA as possible. The second thing they look at is your experience. Recruiters are interested in knowing what applicable classes you have taken, what projects you’ve worked on, what relevant jobs you’ve had, if were you in the military, etc. My advice is to mention the classes you’ve taken that are relevant to the job in your resume, mention the projects you’ve worked on in your classes and what skills you gained and talk to your professors about working as a research assistant. The third thing they look at is your extra-curricular activities: what clubs you’re in and how do you add value to your community? I definitely recommend joining clubs that interest you and are relevant to what you want to do. Also, do some volunteer work. For example, every year, FIU’s College of Engineering & Computing hosts the Engineering Expo, where thousands of elementary, middle and high school students are invited to FIU’s Engineering Center for a day to tour the campus, visits labs and participate in workshops. The college is always in need of volunteers and I enjoy volunteering.

What projects did you work on? Here at FIU, there are a lot of opportunities to work on projects. For one, you get to work on multiple projects as part of your classes. So far, I’ve designed and built an autonomous robot, a virtual card game, a DC generator (electrical machine converting mechanical energy into direct current electricity), and an analog filter (basic building block of signal processing in electronics) just from the classes I’ve taken. You can also work on a lot of projects outside of your classes. I’ve worked on IEEE’s (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) Southeastern Conference Hardware Competition the past two years as part of FIU’s IEEE student branch. I also work as a research assistant and have designed a neural network to solve simple problems leading up to being able to do image recognition. With image recognition, we can do things like having driverless cars or map different sections of a heart from a 3D sonogram. There are also many other clubs and organizations like FIU’s Aerospace Engineering Club and SAE’s Formula One Club that work on projects such as a solar plane and Formula 1 car. These are great avenues to build on and gain the experience that engineering companies are looking for.

How did your internship connect back to your coursework? My senior design capstone project was to design an app that found errors in a data list. If I hadn’t taken software techniques with Professor Subbarao Wunnava, worked on the robotics competition, or worked as a research assistant for Assistant Professor Wujie Wen, I would have been completely lost. The experience I gained doing those projects was invaluable, even though it seemed very difficult and frustrating at the time.

What was the coolest thing about your internship or that happened during your internship? The coolest thing was delivering the final product and hearing all the feedback. There were a lot of bugs with the app at first, but once we cleaned those up, everyone really liked the MEDL Checker 500 Tool. It made their work a lot easier and more accurate. Just being in Utah was cool, too. Experiencing the mountains, desert, Salt Lake City and the culture was very rewarding.

Ogden, Utah

Ogden, Utah

What did you like most about your experience? I liked Utah a lot. I also really liked the work environment. They expected a lot out of you at NGC, but everyone is really nice and willing to help. They have a lot of BBQ’s and team building functions. We had at least one BBQ or potluck a week.

What did you learn about yourself? I learned that putting yourself out there pays off and good things will come out of it. Going to these conferences, even though they take place in different states, can lead to a great summer internship. And taking an internship in another state, even if it’s in Utah, can lead to a memorable summer experience. You’ll definitely learn things about yourself you didn’t know and make a lot of connections.

How did the position increase your professional confidence? I expanded my knowledge in a field I was very weak in (programming/software development). I also made a lot of good friends and made professional connections. Also, I got an offer to be a returning intern next summer and a full-time position when I graduate in December 2019. So, now I have that confidence if I choose to interview with other companies as well.

Antonio Rubio with colleague.

Antonio Rubio with colleague.

How did you expand your professional network? I did a good job at accomplishing my tasks. I asked my colleagues for help and I always helped people with their work if they asked. I exchanged my contact information with my new friends and I’ve kept in touch with them. Also, my supervisors asked me to stay in touch with them throughout the semester.

How did it help you prove yourself in the “real-world?” Everyone really enjoyed the product that my partner and I delivered. It’s still being used today and they plan to use it for the length of the contract. It was a tool that we designed, built and is actually being used to make peoples work easier and more accurate.