Seeing the stuff you worked on make its way through manufacturing and production, onto integration, and eventually to launch was a really, really cool experience.
Name: Wil Covington
Major: Aerospace Engineering
Location: Wallops Island, VA
How did you find the internship/co-op? I actually found my co-op through one of UMD’s career fairs. For the Spring 2022 engineering career fair, there were a couple of companies that advertised that they weren’t going to be present in person, but were still looking for resumes for people who were interested. So, I put in my resume for a few companies and organizations I thought looked cool. I received an email a week or so later from an engineer with a NASA email asking if I was interested in a mechanical engineering internship working on sounding rockets at NASA Wallops Flight Facility through a contract with the company Peraton.
What have been the most interesting aspects of your internship? At first, I think the most interesting part of working at Wallops was the, “wow, I’m working at a NASA facility,” awe that came with the internship. Once that began to subside, which definitely took a while, the most interesting part was being trusted with a variety of projects that had serious implications for upcoming missions. Seeing the stuff you worked on make its way through manufacturing and production, onto integration, and eventually to launch was a really, really cool experience.
What campus activities or courses do you think helped you, or would have helped you, with this internship? The two courses that come to mind are ENAE324: Aerospace Structures and, get this, ENES100. I think Structures immediately makes sense, given that so much of what I ended up doing involved structural analysis, designing for structural integrity, analyzing stresses, etc. With ENES100, it’s incredibly helpful in the way it gives students the opportunity to get hands-on with the iterative engineering process, design reviews, and, specifically for mechanical engineers, working with engineering drawings and power tools. As far as activities, I’ve had the opportunity to do some mechanical engineering work with the Space Systems Lab which really gave me some good experience that translated over to my time at Wallops.
How have your career or academic goals changed as a result of this internship experience? My academic goals have remained pretty much identical since starting my co-op – aside from pushing my graduation back a year. Career-wise, I think my internship narrowed my focus in the sense that I know I don’t want positions that are strictly software focused. I like working on things I can see and that are machined and comprise so much of the physicality of a project. However, I wouldn’t mind branching out into other disciplines of engineering with a newly-acquired background in mechanical engineering. Disciplines like thermal engineering, structural engineering, systems engineering, etc. Regardless, no matter what I do, I want it focused in the space industry.
What advice would you give other UMD engineering students seeking an internship or co-op position? UMD’s an amazing school for engineering, and so the resources made available to students through internship/career fairs, networking events, and anything else on the Careers4Engineers website is immensely helpful in hearing back from companies and organizations. After that, getting picked for an interview is, in my eyes and experience, the hardest part of the internship search process. Once you do get one, interviewers more often than not are looking for people who are a combination of experienced/willing to learn, easy to get work with, and hard working. Being able to convey all of that in an interview isn’t easy, but it’s definitely a skill that comes with time. If you’re like me, you may fail at it before you begin to become comfortable and confident. The internship search process can suck, but getting your foot in the door at one internship/co-op opens up doors for other internships/full-time jobs like you wouldn’t believe.