Education - Page 2 - Internships prepare students for the real world

- Page 2
Internships prepare students for the real world
Interns gain hands-on experience to ensure future success in the workforce

By Emily Parks, Contributing Writer

Real-life, real-world experience earned through internships and apprenticeships complements a degree in a field of study. The “on the job” learning obtained through these programs allows students to be skilled and productive members of the workforce upon graduation or completion of the program. More and more businesses value the investment made in these students and are taking steps to partner with local universities and community colleges to further these initiatives.

The summer internship program at The University of Maryland Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Test Site, located in southern Maryland, gives their interns the necessary skills to launch their ideas in the field of UAS. According to the website, test site experts leverage their approximately 150 years of combined experience in military and civilian aviation, engineering and project management to accelerate the safe, responsible application of UAS in public and private
industries at the site.

Interns reap the benefit of that expertise, as they work with these experts on site all summer to make their idea, whether it has to do an application or software for an unmanned aircraft system (UAS), to take flight. They work closely with researchers and staff on the modeling, design, analysis and experimentation of their UAS.

According to Matt Scassero, director of the University of Maryland’s UAS Test Site, about five interns come to the program each summer from a variety of backgrounds, such as mechanical engineering, space engineering, computer science or physics, but have an idea in mind regarding flying a drone. “It’s really about getting their idea airborne, that’s the bottom line,” Scassero says. “How do we take your idea, whether it’s a sensor, an application or the software, how do we get it airborne while making sure everything is integrated not only efficiently, but safely.” He notes students don’t enroll in the internship to build a drone per se, but as part of the experience are exposed to drone construction design.

Ryan Moss, a member of the class of 2019 from the Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland, College Park, was interested in the internship due to his strong background in robotics. He was excited to have the opportunity to work on his own research project related to UAS and get more hands-on

Moss interned at the Test Site in 2017 and 2018. During his time at the Test Site, he completed two prototypes and enjoyed seeing other research projects take flight. “My project specifically was designing a quad copter that can transform itself into a ground rover that can drive on the ground,” he says. “The other idea was to create a system that can get into tight places that a flying vehicle cannot and reach places that a ground vehicle cannot reach.” Other projects at the site included a quad copter that goes underwater to use in bridge inspection as well as solar vehicles.

“Every experience for doing hands-on work – actually designing something – builds toward my engineering knowledge and experience,” he adds. “I really learned a lot about graphic prototyping, the design processes, and how to do research to develop new types of systems and new products.” Moss graduated this year with a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering and has accepted a position with General Electric.

Gaining real world experience in a career field is not just for college students. Thanks to a partnership between the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC), Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS) and employers, the P-TECH program (Pathways in Technology Early College High School) provides high school students the opportunity to earn their high school diploma, learn from a mentor, and gain hands-on experience in the field while earning their associate degree in engineering technology.

In the first year of the program, 60 freshman students from Dundalk High School took part in the program, with 55 enrolled for the 2019-2020 school year. The industry partners involved in the program are Alban CAT, KCI, Stanley Black & Decker and Whiting Turner.

The program is unique in that it creates a symbiotic partnership between students and employers. “For these students who often face socio-economic obstacles, it’s an investment in their education by providing them with an education at no cost to them,” Brian Hammond, director of Early College Access programs at CCBC, says. “Regarding workforce development, we’re providing a steady workforce of highly skilled workers whose skills are honed by input from our industry partners, who will also have been mentors to them from day one.”

The apprenticeship education model is also gaining increased attention from employers and potential student participants alike. Starting this summer, Howard Community College will launch Maryland’s first ever apprenticeship in construction management. The two-year program will kick off with a two-week boot camp to prepare students. In addition to coursework on construction management, the 15 students in the program will be required to have 2,000 on-the-job training hours per year which they will earn through employment with local, licensed construction companies. Local construction companies currently participating in the program include Harkins Builders, Hamel Builders, Whiting Turner and Williamsburg Homes.

“What I like about this apprenticeship model is the deeper relationship between the student and the employer,” Patricia Turner, dean of Science, Engineering and Technology at HCC explains. “It’s a more sustained relationship – these apprentices are going to have more responsibility than an intern.”

Mike Manochek, currently a junior estimator and project manager in training for Denver-Elek, found out about the program from his supervisor, Charles Elek. He appreciates how Elek is willing to invest in his employees like himself to make sure they are successful, and looks forward to bringing his new skills back to his employer. Manochek believes the apprenticeship program at HCC will prepare him for success in the construction industry. “The course list touches on many extremely important aspects of construction management,” he says. “I want to be as well-rounded as possible, to be able to both estimate and run projects. This program will aid me in my quest to be an asset to this company and play an important role. I’m extremely excited to get started!” •