In an interview with National Geographic, one of the team behind a new project to build a mechanical engineering internship program at the U.S. Air Force’s prestigious Academy, a student asks, “Is it cool?”—an answer that’s both timely and revealing.
“There’s a lot of work that’s going on,” says the student, who is from New York City and currently studying mechanical engineering.
“I would imagine it’s a good idea to have someone who’s not as familiar with the engineering work that goes on in that particular branch of the Air Force, but I’m not sure how that’s done.
It’s a little weird.”
The student, a sophomore engineering major, is the lead author of a paper on the topic, and the first author of the program, which is to be formally launched in 2018.
“It’s an internship program, but it’s really not a traditional internship,” says Sarah Laski, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the Air Forces Academy, which sits just outside of Washington, D.C. “We want to be able to offer internships that are really fun and exciting for the student and the mentor.”
Laskis is not the first academic or research group to explore this idea.
Last year, a team led by former Harvard professor David Deutsch and former University of California, Santa Barbara, professor of electrical engineering, Steven Hsieh, started a mechanical engineer internship program called the Mechanical Engineering Internship.
“The idea is that the students get a lot out of working with an engineering team and they can get to see some of the engineering tools that are used by the team,” Hsiea says.
“That’s an idea that we really wanted to bring to bear, and we wanted to get it done in a way that was really fun.”
But the program is still in its early days.
The team, which consists of five students, currently has about 30 people participating in the program.
The students are mostly working on engineering projects with their mentor and are getting a great sense of the technical side of the work they’re doing.
One student works with a student on a project that involves a robot that helps people with disabilities.
The other students are working on a robotics project with a robot built for a school project.
The mentor, who has no formal engineering background, helps the students work together with his or her team, including students who are doing field work.
The mentors and students collaborate on project design, which often involves making changes to the project and then iterating on it.
The internship also helps students in various ways.
One of the students in the Mechanical Engine internship program is currently working on an internship with the Air National Guard.
“My internship is kind of an extension of my military career,” the student says.
One recent project, which involved developing a robot for a project with the Army National Guard, was a collaborative effort.
The project, titled “Engineering with Robots,” was developed by an engineering student from the Academy’s Mechanical Engineering program, and involved the development of an advanced prototype for the robot, as well as designing and building an assembly line for the project.
“With our project, we’re trying to build the robots to be used by an Army Corps of Engineers task force,” says J.P. Dominguez, the program’s director.
“This is a real time-tested method for robotics that we can put together quickly, cheaply, and with very little engineering background.”
The Mechanical Engineering internship program was founded by the Mechanical Engineer Internship Program Committee (MEPC), a group of engineering students that Laskie works with every year.
Laskia and the other students work with the MEPC for the program and are also involved in various research projects, including a project on robotics in the United Kingdom that Liski is collaborating on.
“One of the main challenges that we face is that there are so many robotics related projects,” Laskias says.
A robot that could be used in the Army Corps project has been designed.
But the student’s project was never built, and Laskius says she and her team have tried to help students work through the challenges of getting their project to a ready-to-go state.
“When I see a student working on something, I try to give them some guidance,” Liskia says.
The student has made several progress in the robotics project, including making a new robot that can be used to test out new technology and a prototype for an integrated robotic system that could aid in the design of robotic systems that can assist in disaster response.
“He’s done a great job,” Lissie says of the student.
“In the robotics portion of the project, he did something that I’m pretty proud of.
He made a robot to test the capabilities of a new robotic system.
That’s a really cool thing that we’re doing right now.”