Disclaimer: Since Swift deals with things they wouldn't want us to share publicly, we were limited to what pictures we could take. Here are the ones that were approved for public display.
This is Swift's main building, also known as Building A. Located about 45 minutes North of HTHNC. The commute was tiring but worth it.
This is Doug. He is a Project Manager in Building B. He tasked us with figuring out a solution for tracking expired material in Swift's freezer.
This is Andrew. He is an engineer. He tasked us with making a power supply and bow for a foam cutter.
Our cubicle, where we worked on the foam cutter. We spent a majority of our time here, researching or ordering parts.
We shadowed Doug in building B. He tasked us with figuring out a solution of inventory management, which I mention later in this photo essay. We worked in his office for a few days.
After we received the parts that we ordered, we created a mock up of the power supply, using blue tape to identify connections.
We were able to learn how to solder, which neither of us had much experience in. We were just given a quick rundown and were left to our own devices.
Here is the circuit, soldered and shrink wrapped. We ended up testing three times before we realized that the transformer was on backwards. It worked fine after we fixed that.
I measure the distance for the hole for the LED.
We drilled the various holes needed to mount all the components withing the junction box.
I had to make sure all the parts could fit in the junction box. It was a tight squeeze, but it fit.
The finished power-supply. Surprisingly, everything worked!
We began work on the bow of the foam cutter, which would hold the Ni-chrome wire. The tool we used here etched a line into the aluminum so we would have a guide when drilling holes.
We used a very large and accurate mill. It had a computer that aided you in placing the bit in a precise location. Here I am cutting the hole for the bolt that will hold the wire.
The finished foam cutter bow. 6 feet long yet light enough to hold with one hand. I was relived that all the parts we ordered fit together.
After we finished the power supply, we hooked it up to the bow to dial in the right amount of power needed to cut foam.
The foam cutter was a success. We cut out an airfoil out of a block of foam. It wasn't perfect, but for a first try, it wasn't too bad.
The sub-zero freezer. Not fun to stay in with only a lab coat. We needed to figure out a fast and easy way to identify expired materials. We needed a solution that could survive the extreme cold.
Our solution was QR codes and colored labels. The codes, when scanned, would remind you the day of expiration via the calender app built included with smartphones. The color on the label represents a quarter in a year and the number signified the year e.g. 2015.
Internship has led me to develop an appreciation for certain things. I have learned to appreciate the closeness of school. Driving 45 minutes to and from internship, sitting in traffic half the time, was a major drag. The commute sucked the life out of me which meant I'd arrive at internship tired. There is a good lesson in this, though. It makes me realize how important it is to live close by your work. It might seem obvious, but it is vital to hit the balance of distance and quality of the job.
Another thing I appreciated was how my colleagues embraced Austin and I. They were eager to have us work and learn at Swift and I can't thank them enough. They made the entire experience enjoyable. Having a work environment similar to this is vital for success. It gets rid of all the apprehension usually associated with working with people which, in turn, allows for more fluid communication. Faster communication means things get done faster. More things done mean more room for more orders. More orders, more money. A business is an ecosystem, and in that system, people are at it's heart.
Internship has shown me that becoming an engineer is what I want to do. It solidified the idea that I want to pursue a career in engineering and I have internship to thank for that. I got to meet a lot of amazing people and experience a lot of unique things. Having tasted what being an engineer could be like, I am eager to learn and experience more. I have a good idea of what I might want to do now, which if you asked me a month ago, I could have told you something completely different. This experience, in my mind, will change the course of my life. Whether or not I become an engineer, internship would still have had a profound impact on me.
Both of the projects I did at Swift should have some impact in the workplace. The Freezer Project let me help Swift with the issue of tracking and labeling materials. I came up with the idea of using QR codes to aid in tracking and implemented the idea of using colored labels that we brainstormed with one of our mentors. By utilizing labels and QR codes, I hope to minimize the risk of forgetting about a roll's expiration date. Both of these methods should impress the auditor when they inspect again. The foam cutter project lay the ground work for the CNC foam cutter Swift will be making after Austin and I are gone. We researched the design and requirements of a basic foam cutter and built the power-supply that they will use for the CNC machine. This saves Swift time from having to building, setting up, and testing a power-supply.
I feel my work as an intern has been very meaningful to me and my education. I revisited many areas I learned and expanded on them. One example is revisiting how circuits work. Before, I had a very vague idea, even after learning about them in school. Now, I was able to learn about more of the components, how they work, and how to implement them. I also learned a lot of new things. I learned about lift and how the wing's shape determines the amount of lift. More importantly, I learned that I might want to pursue a career in engineering. I feel like that was the biggest impact on my education.
Interning at Swift has presented many opportunities for me to self-advocate. Whenever I have a question, I ask, no matter how trivial and I always get a helpful answer. Anytime I have an issue with something or need to clarify, I ask. It's easy. Everyone here doesn't look down at us, and in fact, are very loose and relaxed. It's not hard to ask for help, which is great because some of the stuff we hear is fairly confusing!
As for being an intern as someone remembers, I think I have hit most of the points. I started coming in early, actually being complimented on it and being told it showed I really am serious about this internship. I have taken notes in meetings (we got to sit in a teleconference with Boeing) and made sure to take a mental note if what everyone does (at least for the people I have met). I dress nicely, wearing what I would at school (a collared shirt, jeans, and nice shoes). Considering we might be thrown into the workshop at any given moment, it's good to wear something comfortable yet more professional than a plain t-shirt. A suit would be overkill, but a t-shirt would be too little. I think I have hit a nice balance. As for always doing something, I have that covered. I have two projects I am juggling which keeps me working. I have plenty to keep me busy!
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?