UWF engineering students apply classroom knowledge in the real world through summer internships
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Twenty-five electrical, computer and mechanical engineering students at the University of West Florida Hal Marcus College of Science and Engineering are participating in internships and Research Experiences for Undergraduates programs with companies and universities throughout the nation this summer.
Although not required for graduation, junior and senior level students who participate can earn course credit, a competitive salary or stipend and consideration for full-time employment or graduate-level studies, according to Dr. Mohamed Khabou, chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
“Internships provide a great opportunity for students to gain hands-on experience and observe how theory and topics they’ve learned in the classroom apply in the real world,” Khabou said. “The students also learn how to interact with customers and supervisors. For some of them who may be unsure of which field they want to pursue, it helps them to determine an area of specialization.”
Senior Everette Petsinger is interning with Caterpillar in its Seguin, Texas engine plant. As a controls engineering intern, he said he has helped eliminate downtime in production by diagnosing a problem and then re-coding a robotic arm and computer vision system.
“This internship has shown me how engineering techniques are implemented in real life, which can be quite different at times than classroom engineering,” said Petsinger. “The biggest takeaway is the need to be a self-starter and self-motivated in a new position.”
Petsinger, who will graduate in December, said he has been offered a full-time position with Caterpillar contingent upon a final review of his internship performance.
“Internships provide a nice financial incentive for engineering students, with interns being paid $13 to $23 an hour,” said Khabou. “And in most cases they do lead to full-time job offers, often with hiring bonuses. Successful interns are already partially trained employees familiar with the work environment, so employers have a desire to keep them.”
Engineering students who plan to pursue a graduate degree benefit from Research Experiences for Undergraduates, Khabou explained. REU is a competitive summer research program sponsored by the National Science Foundation. Students receive a stipend to spend their summer doing research with faculty in STEM fields at a host university.
Five UWF students are participating in REU programs at schools nationwide this summer.
“An REU is the best thing you can have on your resume to prove you are good at research,” Khabou said.
Students apply for REU opportunities through a nationwide database of REU research sites or directly through the investigators who receive NSF funding for the program. Internship opportunities are advertised at UWF through JasonQuest, an online career services portal.
Khabou said local companies have been pleased with the quality of students in the UWF program.
“We are grateful to work with companies such as Gulf Power, Avalex and Current to offer students these opportunities,” he said. “We receive evaluations from student’s internship supervisors, and they have been appreciative of our students’ preparation.”
For more information about the Hal Marcus College of Science and Engineering, visit uwf.edu.