Career Beginnings: Engineering Internships Help Put New Skills to Work
By Mick Mattie, EI
To further my education, I decided to look into summer engineering internships. My summer engineering internship at Morrison-Maierle not only gave me an extensive introduction to HVAC and plumbing design but also gave me experience using industry tools that are useful outside of the internship. I expanded what I learned in school and gained new skills that I’m able to carry with me as I begin my career as a mechanical engineer.
Internships are valuable for many reasons, mainly because they help foster the skills you learn in college in a way not possible in the classroom. For example, I worked on a pump station at over 6,500 feet elevation that required considering the effects of the extreme weather at the location. Another project—an arena project with a building over 70,000 square feet—pushed me to apply these same principles but to a vastly different situation. These real-world applications of what I learned in school helped to solidify the knowledge and increased its practical value.
While everyone’s internship experiences are different, here are a few highlights from my recent experience with Morrison-Maierle.
Learning new parts of building codes is necessary for project work, but not taught in school. For example, I learned about specifics of fire protection codes and mechanical codes for a duct collection project, and a hospital remodel project introduced me to the requirements of healthcare design. I’m now more prepared for a full-time job after graduation because of this early exposure to codebooks and their interpretation.
Computer Automated Design Programs (CAD)
School taught the basics of some CAD programs, but after using them on projects during my internship, I understood them at a level far beyond what I learned in school. These tools made my work more organized and improved the presentation and speed of execution. Technical programs including load calculation and equipment selection programs are critical to project work, but are also not taught in school. I got a substantial introduction to these technical programs during the internship as well.
Job Site Visits
I better understood the knowledge I learned in the office through visits to job sites. I visited projects at the start of design, and a project nearing the end of construction and learned how the designs I worked on were implemented. Being able to see the benefits of different system types first-hand, I picked up knowledge much faster than I would have without this hands-on opportunity.
My mentors and supervisors took extra time to answer my questions and foster my skills on each project. The most important mentorship I had was the opportunity to work under one senior engineer, Ryan Thomson, PE, who challenged me on each project. When I was stuck, asking Ryan a question not only got me past the issue, but provided invaluable insight. Our frequent discussions got me to think about parts of the design I had not considered and improve my work. He kept me challenged and allowed me to ask questions as much as I needed to which greatly advanced my understanding of the design process.
Working with Other Market Groups
In addition to working with Ryan and the other members of Morrison-Maierle’s Buildings Market Group, I learned about Morrison-Maierle’s work in airports, surveying and water-wastewater. Having exposure to the projects these teams worked on helped me better coordinate my assignments with them and gain insight into their designs and how they approach their projects.
Back to Campus
Upon my return to school in the fall, the knowledge I learned from my internship was important to the success of my senior project. While the project involved a largely different design than what I worked on over the summer, the knowledge I had from the internship was the foundation for the design and helped me solve problems when working with the project sponsor. The knowledge of the mechanical systems I learned during my internship helped me make more informed decisions about equipment selections for the project. Learning building codes while at Morrison-Maierle helped quickly move me to the correct sections of the codes. Learning from senior engineers provided me a perspective not possible without my internship experience. The result was a more thorough design delivered at the end of the project.
I built a significant start to a career during my engineering internship with Morrison-Maierle, which was only possible because of the opportunities I had and the guidance of those I worked with. I was pushed throughout the internship to improve and given the tools to thrive. I learned knowledge of an industry before graduation, which proved important when I returned to school and which will give me a head start after graduation at a full time position.