Name: Manuel E. Losada
Hometown: Born in Camaguey, Cuba and raised in Miami
What is your major? I am an electrical engineering undergraduate student.
Where did you intern? I interned at the Savannah River National Laboratory (SRNL) in Aiken, South Carolina. I was a research and development engineer (R&D engineer).
How did you get your internship? I got my internship by applying to the Minority Serving Institutions Partnership Program (MSIPP). This program helps engineers from minority backgrounds find internships in national laboratories.
What advice do you have for those beginning the internship process? Make sure you will be going out there to continue the work you are currently doing in your research or in more project intense classes. This way, you can apply what you have learned and gain real-world knowledge.
What projects did you work on? I was a research and development engineer, working on the inspection of the H-Canyon Exhaust tunnel. The H-Canyon at Savannah River National Lab is the only operational and hardened nuclear chemical separations facility in the United States. H-Canyon uses chemical separation to process and recover uranium-235 and neptunium-237 from enriched uranium fuel tubes. H-Canyon is currently used to eliminate nuclear material. The exhaust air from the chemical separation is routed through the Canyon Air Exhaust (CAEX).
The tunnel requires inspections, which is done by deploying robots. I specifically worked on the integration of the inertial measurement unit into a sensor suite so that the position of robots placed inside the cave could be tracked. It is important to know where the robot is inside the cave in order to know where the 3D-imaging scans were taken. By knowing where the scans were taken, we can know if the nuclear damage was done in a portion of the cave that is critical or not, which will drive the decision of whether taxpayer dollars should be used for a repair.
How did your internship connect back to your coursework? During my internship, I had to do a lot of Digital Signal Processing (DSP), which is acquiring little bits of information from a stream of information while not losing any critical information. FIU’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering offers a DSP class, which I am currently taking. Students in this class learn a variety of signal processing operations. Essentially, I was experimenting with different forms of discrete integration techniques. My goal was to deduce which technique yielded the most precise position in the least amount of time. The reason I had to do this was because the sensor I was using gave me acceleration data, however what I needed was to track position.
What was the coolest thing about your internship or that happened during your internship? The coolest thing was getting to work with Chris Suarez and Connor McMahn, graduate students from the University of Texas, who taught me a tremendous amount by referring me to useful videos and documents. Also, visiting Savannah, Georgia, with Sebastian, Tristen and Ryan, my colleagues from FIU’s Applied Research Center, a center focusing on solving real-world problems through multi-disciplinary research collaborations. Hanging out with my friends was very bromantic!
What did you like most about your experience? I loved the fact that I was doing very technical work — and was trusted. I was given really good challenges relating to robotics, which is my passion.
What did you learn about yourself? I learned that I am pretty good at learning things on the spot.
How did the position increase your professional confidence? This position increased my professional confidence tremendously because I had to learn something completely new such as programming using the Robotic Operating System (ROS) framework and picking up a new scripting language called Python.
How did you expand your professional network? The national labs do a lot of work in applied robotics, and this internship put me in a position where I was able to show my skills to a lot of employers. Thankfully with the skills I have acquired here at FIU through my research at FIU’s Applied Research Center and various projects with IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers), a student organization which I am currently president of, I was able to wow my employers this summer.
How did it help you prove yourself in the “real-world?” This has been my third internship and the most technical one so far. It built upon a lot of previous knowledge (integration techniques and programming sensors) and some knowledge I had yet to acquire (digital signal processing).
Losada was previously featured on FIU News when he interned at Rockwell Collins as an electrical engineer in 2017. Read more about his experience.