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from robotics team captain to electrical engineering intern

Joe Miller is a 2017 CAPS graduate. Joe was Captain of the CAPS Robotics team and will be attending Iowa State University to major in electrical engineering. Joe was selected as a summer intern for the Transmission and Distribution global practice at Burns & McDonnell. Joe’s summer experience is summarized below:

Describe your summer internship experience.

I worked in the Transmission and Distribution global practice at Burns & McDonnell. More specifically, I worked closely with the Quality Department. This department oversees the quality review process for the global practice. Another function of this department is to organize training classes to prepare engineers for the ever-changing technology world. In order to maintain a Professional Engineer status many states require continuing education and the classes that the department arranges allows engineers to get their continuing education credit. My role this summer was to edit the videos from recorded classes, restructure the file system, add classes to a database (we started the summer with 274 and have grown this database to 552), and to send out reminders to Project Managers to make sure that their teams get the quality reviews done in a timely manner.

In addition to working with the Quality Department, I did some networking and received two projects that were more engineering focused. My favorite project is what is called a courtesy check for Duke Energy. They gave me a set of 98 drawings and are having me go through them to make sure the wires go to the correct place and are labeled correctly. These drawings have made it through the quality process already, but I am finding some minor issues. This is the whole purpose behind a secondary review. The second project involves a software called SGConfig for General Electric. One of the project managers, had created a manual for this program that needed some work in order to make it more presentable. I started by reading the 140 page document and making minor modifications. After this was done, I contacted General Electric to download the software. It was pretty cool to see what types of programs are being used by engineers and I feel like I better understand now what their job is.

The last thing that I did this summer was attend a seminar series that walked through the inner workings of a substation. This course was a good learning experience as it gave me useful insight into what everything does in a substation and its general function.

What are your key takeaways?

My biggest takeaway from this summer is to network. High school internships are rare, especially paid ones, so it’s imperative to network. After speaking with my manager, she said that generally high school interns do not get any engineering projects, however it was because of my networking that I was able to be assigned to one. It is likely that I would have just been renaming files and editing videos this whole summer, however I got much more out of the summer by developing connections with other people in order to get work that would actually benefits me. My other takeaway is to stick with it, at times the tasks were rather tedious and for the most part seemed like busy work, however you aren’t working for this summer you are working for the next summer. If you can show that you can do the tedious tasks with high accuracy and do them quickly, people take note of that and will be willing to give you more meaningful work. After talking with my manager, she made it clear that if I get invited back next summer (which I will find out in mid-August) then my work will be more engineering based work.

How did CAPS help prepare you for this experience?

Being on the robotics project taught me a lot about work ethic, managing a time table, and communication skills. Although I have quite a bias, I would say that the robotics project was the most rigorous project in the CAPS Engineering Strand. We would show up sometimes at 11 AM and not leave until 8 PM. I think this says a lot about a person; being 100% devoted to a project allows a student to become immersed in the team they are working with. I have noticed similar dedication at Burns and McDonnell; people don’t leave until the work is done and all of them seem to enjoy the work that they are doing. Being able to work with a team as dedicated as the robotics team and then migrating to Burns and McDonnell was really eye opening to see that the atmospheres are so similar. Communication in the engineering world is imperative and because I had the opportunity to be in CAPS and work with engineering companies such as Brecoflex and AndyMark taught me how to understand technical specifications. Lastly, CAPS taught me how to work with adults, CAPS teachers connect with their students almost exactly like how the professionals at Burns and McDonnell do. This made me feel so much more comfortable and at place. I deeply appreciate the tools that CAPS has given me as they have benefited me every day this summer.