Name: Rodolfo Fernandez
Hometown: Miami, FL
What is your major? Mechanical engineering
Where did you intern? What did you do there? I interned at Boeing Research & Technology in Seattle, Washington. There, I was assigned two positions. The first one was as a process engineer and my role was to characterize paints that are known to cause problems, such as flood and float, which cause pigment separation once applied onto the aircraft. These types of issues are critical because a color with different density pigments on the aircraft will cause less dense pigments to float to the surface. In the end, this may change what was meant to be the final color. The customer can then request a rework, which can be costly and time consuming for the company. To achieve my goal and solve this problem, I developed a test procedure that would allow quality control to target problems on the paints prior to the application on the aircraft in a fast and reliable way, potentially saving Boeing hundreds of thousands of dollars in time and resources.
The second position was working on automated coating application on aircraft. I supported the efforts in automation engineering and developed high-accuracy calibration methods for fast implementation on the project. This was especially demanding and showed me how much all of the things I have learned at FIU can be applied to problems I had never been exposed to before.
How did you get your internship? I attended the 2019 BEYA STEM Conference. I registered early to be able to send my resume beforehand, which provides attendees with more chances for companies to contact you before you get to the conference. That way, you can have a guaranteed interview.
What advice do you have for those beginning the internship process? Polish your resume and make sure you are describing your skills and the projects you have worked on in a technical setting. Put extra weight on your problem-solving skills! When the internship comes, be sure to review the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) method since it’s what most of the companies use for intern interviews. This is a very straightforward way for them to know if you will be a good fit for their teams from a behavioral and technical perspective.
How did your internship connect back to your coursework? The type of training that I have received here at FIU is very focused on problem solving, which is an extremely valuable skill and resource to have. It allows you to engineer anything, anytime, anywhere. All of the physics and applied physics courses that I have taken have shown me a way to look at problems and situations. I have used every single problem-solving skill I developed at FIU to face the challenges I was presented at Boeing. I also have to mention that working for the Plasma Forming Laboratory at FIU made a huge impact on my problem-solving skills. Professors Arvind Agarwal and Benjamin Boesl, principal investigators of the lab, push their students to excel and that prepared me very well for what is to come. I encourage all students to look for a job with a research group at FIU’s College of Engineering & Computing.
What was the coolest thing about your internship or that happened during your internship? Being in charge of a seven degrees of freedom (7 DOF) robotic was pretty awesome. A 7 DOF arm is a device that is used to apply coats of paint on aircrafts, and it has six axis rotation systems in it, plus an added one at the end of the arm where a “hand” would be. I had a lot of fun working with that. The folks at Boeing were always there if I needed help or information about a topic. It was a really cool experience to be able to work alongside such talented people.
What did you like most about your experience? Seeing how many disciplines come together to form all of the projects I worked on was impressive. Everything from mechanical design to circuits, passing through thermo-fluid systems, materials engineering, Finite Element Analysis (FEA)—which is a technique used by engineers to predict the performance of elements under certain conditions like stress or thermal—and thermodynamics was present in some way or another in every single project I saw or worked on. It was an eye-opening experience and probably what I liked most about it.
What did you learn about yourself? I had the opportunity to put my skills to the test and see that I was more prepared than I initially thought. It made me value all of the years and endless nights I had to go through when studying engineering.
How did you expand your professional network? Other than the people I worked for or with, I tried to get to know everybody in the department. If I had idle time, I would ask engineers there if I could shadow them or help with a project. They were always very nice about it and would find something for me or let me shadow them. That was a great way to get to meet folks. My manager also allowed me to interview engineers from other departments. I met a lot of them this way and they explained the work they were performing.
How did it help you prove yourself in the “real-world?” Being able to have an internship at a company is very beneficial since it’s the ultimate test for yourself to know if you have been learning or not. It helped me to look at problems in a more practical way and to search for solutions that might be readily available with some minor modifications that are easily achieved throughout the knowledge we obtain at school. It also showed me how important communication is and how real-world engineering teams get organized and use specific techniques for proper teamwork and optimization.