Q: What does a day in the life of your internship look like?
A: A day in the life of an internship can vary quite a bit. There are busier days and slower days. Usually, you come in the morning and knock out whatever work you may be helping with or that you have been assigned. As the day goes on, you typically will sit in on a few meetings, like a mentor check-in, department check-in, or an intern meeting. You may even have a meeting with someone in the company you are working on for a project. You may also work on your intern project, as it is important to manage time throughout the summer in order to meet the deliverables you set out at the beginning of the year.
The nice thing about the program is that no day is exactly the same, you will certainly not be staring at a screen for 8 straight hours. That is about what a typical day looks like, but some days you may go on site somewhere or get involved in some other way.
Q: What level of experience is necessary for the internship program?
A: There are no specific experience requirements for the internship program. Depending on what you are interested in working on, there may be different requirements. It is helpful to have a basic understanding of core engineering classes suchs as solid mechanics, fluid mechanics, statics and so on. Having experience using Microsoft programs is also useful.
It is also helpful to have some preliminary knowledge in CAD and basic programming. All of us had different levels of experience and knowledge of software and technology, so as long as you are willing to learn you should not face any issues due to a lack of experience.
Q: Did you have a mentor for the internship?
A: Yes, at the beginning of the internship we were all assigned a mentor who works at the company based on our own personal interest and their specialties. We then met regularly with our mentors to set goals, see what they were working on, and ask any questions we have. Occasionally, our mentors would include us in on work they needed extra help with or bring us along on site visits.
A cool aspect of the mentorship program was that most of our mentors were not much older than us. Some of them were even interns themselves a few short years ago. This made communication easier as they have a bit of a better understanding of what we are going through in the program and at our respective schools.
Q: Was the internship in person or virtual?
A: The internship followed a hybrid format. On Monday and Tuesday, we were in the office from about 8 to 4. On Wednesday and Thursday, we were at home working virtually conducting meetings on Microsoft teams. Occasionally, we would come in on Wednesday and Thursday as we found the in person experience to be more efficient for getting work done, especially group work.
Q: Did you go to any other places outside of the office?
A: Yes, one of the things that RPA likes to do with their interns is to get them to go to site visits. Since the company does so much work on-site, they were able to get us to go to some interesting places such as Arconic, Ironwood Generating Station, and GSK.
Going to sites outside the office was an invaluable experience. Having the ability to physically see some of the places and projects RPA is working on truly gives a better understanding of what a day in the life of an engineer looks like. The on-site visits also helped us gauge some of the projects RPA was working on outside of just looking at a drawing or a report. Seeing sites outside the office also gave us the opportunity to explore more potential career paths in and related to the engineering field. Additionally, the on-site visits allowed us to communicate with current employees at RPA and employees at the companies we were visiting. This allowed us to get a feel for a variety of professional work environments.
Q: What types of projects did you work on?
A: The types of projects worked often varied. There was one intern project that was worked on throughout the summer solely by the interns. We were given a budget to work on any project we desired. We wanted to see if we could solve a real world inconvenience in the office. We attempted to create a facial recognition for the front door of the office building. Through 3D modeling and printing, programming, and assembly we were able to create a prototype for a facial recognition lock system for the front door of RPA.
There were also projects that we would help our mentors with, which would often include things such as modeling a component of a system, editing/revising CAD drawings, or helping translate old drawings into new drawings.
Q: What was the biggest challenge you faced in the program?
A: One of the biggest challenges was figuring out how to manage your time. Some days there was a lot to do, and some days there wasn’t as much. It took a balance to figure out how to get stuff done in an efficient manner, while still making sure you could still be occupied and not just sitting around.
Another challenge we faced was all the interns coming from different schools. We all have different backgrounds and levels of experience so it was often a challenge to get on the same page and see where everyone fits on attacking team projects. Although it was difficult at times, it was cool to learn things from the other interns that you may not have learned if you were working with just team members.
Q: Were there any unique aspects of the program you were not expecting?
A: One of the unique aspects of the program was the investing meeting we had with our intern leader. One of our intern leaders happens to be an expert in investing and we all had the opportunity to sit in on a class and he gave us an investing 101 rundown. We were able to ask as many questions as we would like and steer the meeting in whatever direction we wanted to. We also had a resume review meeting in which a recruiting expert gave us some tips on structuring our resume to be successful. A few non engineering opportunities, like the investing and resume meeting, were an essential part of the program that I do not think any of us anticipated coming into the program. In the real world, one’s job is a lot more than just the technical engineering work done day in and day out.
We also had the opportunity to visit the Mid Atlantic Air Museum in Reading. A few years ago, RPA helped the Air Museum convert drawings for a P-61 wing into 21st century software in order to be re-made. They invited us back to see the work they have done as well as give us a tour of the facility. It was cool to see up close and personal the behind the scenes engineering work.
At one point in the summer, we attended the chili cookoff. Employees were able to bring in chili to be blindly judged by the rest of the company. It was cool to see a company that seems so busy at the time to take a few hours off to participate in fun activities like a chili cook off.
Q: Was the program different for each intern?
A: Yes, since each intern was assigned a different mentor, the interns often did work that was relevant to what their mentors were working on at the time. In addition, some of the interns would also work together to work on other projects from different engineers at the company. A lot of the time, whoever was there to help at the time help was needed was chosen to work on the project. The field of engineering in which you are interested also determined how the program was shaped. For example, if an electrical engineer needed help on a project, he’d seek out the electrical engineering intern for help. This really gave a feel for all the projects that RPA did.
Q: What suggestions do you have for future interns interested in the program?
A: Don’t be afraid to ask for extra work. In order to get the most out of any internship, it is important that you work on different things with different people. Even if someone asks you to do something that you have no idea where to start, take the opportunity and ask for help. People will always be ready to help when it is needed. People aren’t always going to seek you out for help, sometimes you need to be the one to seek them out and ask if there is anything that you may help them with.
Also try to get to know your fellow interns and other members of the company outside of their engineering skills, interest, and projects. Getting to know others and having personable conversations with others makes the internship more enjoyable and may even provide some networking opportunities for you.
Final Thank You:
We would like to thank RPA for the experience to grow as young engineers in a challenging ever-changing work environment. Having the opportunity to participate in real-world projects and network ourselves day in and day out is an invaluable experience we will carry with us as we continue our education and begin our careers.