For my internship project, I will be working with Austin on a foam wire cutter so we can cut airfoils out of foam blocks. It is similar to what RC hobbyists use to great wings for their planes, except we are doing it on a much larger scale. We settled on this project after discussing with one of the engineers, Andrew, on what we wanted to do. He worked with us to come up with an idea we'd like to do while also being helpful to Swift.
We first started by looking up and researching designs for a power supply, which would heat the wire for foam cutting. I researched the design and materials while Austin calculated the amperage required as well as created the electrical diagram. We compiled a BoM, or Bill of Materials, that we could give to the department responsible for processing purchase orders so they could order us the parts we need. Currently, we are working on the actual cutter itself. This has been a challenge as we have to decide a light-weight material that is strong and cheap. It needs to be able to hold it's shape while under the tension of the wire. Then there is question of how will it be held together.
I've come to realize you must think about everything in a design. You can't think an idea halfway, you need to make sure that idea works in your setting and application. There are so many things you need to consider. Luckily, Andrew has been helping us in adapting to this thought process. He's been our lead on this project as he has the most experience in these sorts of things. Hopefully, with his help, Austin and I can lay the ground work for Swift's future CNC Foam Cutter.
EDIT: Looks like we have ANOTHER project! We are helping Swift with an issue of expired pre-preg (carbon fiber with epoxy that hasn't been cured) materials and how to track them. Austin and I have to figure out a solution for their freezer materials so they can track the materials more effectively.
The first project is the priority, but when we can't work on the foam cutter we, work on the freezer one. Keeps us busy!
Even though I have been at Swift for only three days, I love working there. The people are super friendly and helpful to us (Austin and I). They don't treat us as kids, but as possible engineers. They give us problems for us to tackle. They listen to our ideas and offer feedback. It's refreshing to be treated this way.
What happens inside Swift is nothing what I expected. People aren't uptight or neat. Quite the opposite, actually. We hear people making jokes and talking in a relaxed manner. Many of the cubicles are filled with various blueprints and papers, cluttering the desks. However, that doesn't mean everyone slacks off. Everyone works very hard and efficiently, they just have fun doing it. It's also interesting how welcoming everyone is to Austin and me. Everyone so far has shown genuine curiosity as to why we are here, and when we explain, they want to know more. It's not hard to go off on tangent with these people you just met. It's really awesome.
Many of the things we learned at school apply there. A few examples are electrical circuits from 9th grade, math that we learned this year, research papers, presentations, and much more. The project we are starting contains all this and more. It's interesting to put the stuff we learned to the test. There are some things I am going to need to develop and develop them fast. One of those things is how engineers start with an idea and make it a final product. There are many parts in between both those points, which I need to work on. Hopefully I will be learning this over the course of the month with my project.
My first impressions about Swift are positive ones. I was nervous at first, as I would be surrounded by people far more experienced than I am and thought people would look down on me, but my colleagues were quick to put me at ease. Everyone was nice and friendly and did not look down at me for being a high school student. I felt accepted.
From the outside, Swift looks like a normal building. Inside however, the workplace is a maze. Whenever we walked around the workshop, we would always end up going into a new area or using a door I had no idea was there. My mentor, Nate, said you could get lost in a place like this.
I am very excited to work on the shop floor and shadowing various people. I hope to find a job I enjoy that I might want to pursue in college. The stuff we are working with is serious business. Many of the parts being worked on are part of a huge project for big-name companies. Also, the shop floor can be a very dangerous place if you aren't careful.
Overall, I am very excited to work at Swift and can't wait to see what the next few weeks will bring.
The week before internship, Austin Simpson and I emailed our mentor, Nate Ogawa, a few questions about his job, specifically how he prepared for it and what is a topicality work day. We also asked about advice on working at Swift. His responses are in green.
What should I know about you before I start working here?
I value enthusiasm and eagerness to learn new things. I value open minded people. I do not appreciate people that pretend to know more than they do.
Why did you choose to work here?
Designing a race car for a living has been my objective all along. However, that is not possible in the U.S. these days. At Swift, I spend most of my time working on aerospace projects, but there are opportunities to work on race cars as well.
How did you end up doing the job that you do?
I stated at Swift as a design engineer. On some of the projects that I was involved in, I had to function as a project manager simply because there was nobody else that would fill that position. That made me start managing some other people, and eventually, I got assigned to manage the engineering department. Then, with the restructuring of the company, I got assigned to be the director of the product development group.
What skills and training are necessary for your position?
Mathematics and physics. Those are the foundations for any engineering disciplines.
Understanding of composite materials.
How did you acquire these skills? Through school? On the job?
Mathematics, physics, and material mechanics, I learned at school.
Composite materials, I learned on the job.
Management skills, I’ve done some readings in my spare time but primarily acquired on the job.
Is there anything you wish you'd realized about the world of work when you were my age?
That for most real-life problems that we see in a work environment, there is no single definitive answer to the problem. You will be left with several options that have their pros and cons. In most cases, you will have to find the best compromise to the answer.
What is a typical work day like?
It will be a combination of;
Designing something on CAD
Putting together a project plan
Analyzing the status of department
Discussing with my colleagues about a project
Communicating with internal or external manufacturing
Communicating with customers
Discussing with my colleagues about how the company should be run
Usually, all of above will happen on the same day.
What does it take to be successful in this organization?
You need an attitude to jump into tasks that you feel is necessary to get the project done. You can’t shy away from necessary tasks saying “that’s not my responsibility.” You have to get yourself in the mentality that “everything that needs to happen to complete the project is my responsibility.” Some redundancy is better than having things fall through the cracks.
What other advice do you have about working here?
What I said above pretty much covers it…
What other personality traits, skills, or knowledge are important here?
You want to be always open to new ideas, skill and knowledge. Openness to learning, perhaps?