Name: Matthew Newman
Type of Project: Summer+Fall 2017 Co-op
I worked as a student co-op at Honda R&D in Raymond, OH for the summer and fall of 2017. The R&D facility is responsible for new vehicle model development and I worked in the exterior body design department. During my terms I worked on 3D design and engineering drawings for exterior body parts such as emblems, door mirrors, and rear view mirrors.
The co-op started after I finished my sophomore year and this was my first co-op. Being my first co-op, it was my first chance to really get a feel for “real-world” engineering and how engineering is used in the workplace. I found through my time there that a lot of what I need to know for the job is learned on the job, not knowledge that can be learned through coursework. I also learned that the specific content from most of the courses isn’t directly applicable to the job, but rather knowing how to think like an engineer and problem solve is much more important. Before going through this co-op, I was pretty sure I wanted to go into design engineering. Also, before the experience I felt that the specific industry I go into isn’t important, only the field that I go into.
Going through the co-op experience mostly confirmed these assumptions. I now know that design engineering is a possibility for the career I want to go into, but I also want to make sure whether or not this is the career path I want to follow by trying out internships/co-ops in different areas of engineering such as analysis or test. The experience also solidified my assumption that the specific industry I go into isn’t as important to me as the area of engineering, as long as I find the products I work on interesting. The most important aspect to me is working in the area of engineering that interests me the most whether that ends up being testing or design engineering or another area. One of the major takeaways from the co-op I did not anticipate was learning more about Japanese culture and learning to work with a diverse group of people from different backgrounds.
The projects given to me throughout my co-op terms allowed me to get a feel for engineering in the industry and what all is involved in design engineering, specifically automotive design. I was given work and projects that would have otherwise been completed by full time engineers, which showed me what a career in design engineering would be like. I had the opportunity to work on parts from the initial styling concepts up to the first iteration of the parts. The first iteration of the parts included 3D computer models as well as engineering drawings that specified the requirements of the parts for accurate cost quotes. I also had a mentor throughout my time there that helped me learn the entire process and assisted me with the work I was given. I was also able to learn a little more about what other areas of engineering worked on at Honda during my terms there. Learning more about those other areas such as analysis and testing has made me want to try out internships or co-ops in those different areas to get a feel for the different kinds of work engineers can do. Gaining experience in different areas of engineering will allow me to determine which type of work best suits me.
From the various projects I worked on as well as some of the projects I saw full time engineers working on, I learned that many of the courses I have taken don’t directly apply in an engineering career. While many of the courses don’t directly apply, knowledge gained from the courses such as engineering fundamentals and how to analyze and solve problems was definitely necessary for the projects. There were some courses that did directly apply to the job, but the courses that are applicable is dependent on the job. I found that the courses related the most to my job were the courses that covered 3D design and engineering drawing. Knowing the basics of 3D modeling and engineering drawing was definitely necessary in order to succeed in a design position. Towards the end of my terms, a saying one of the senior engineers told me has definitely stuck with me. The senior engineer told me a saying that he’s heard and has found to be true is that we’ll only use about 10% of what we actually learned in college courses in our career, but which 10% depends on the career and we won’t know which 10% it is until graduating.
Learning more about Japanese culture and having the opportunity to work with people with diverse backgrounds was a major takeaway I wasn’t expecting. I knew that Honda is a Japanese based company and that they have diverse employees, but the extent to which I learned about different cultures and backgrounds surpassed my expectations. Throughout my co-op terms, I had the opportunity to work with others who were not born or raised in the United States and whose first language was not English. Before this co-op experience, I had limited experience working with fellow students who were raised in a different culture and who were not fluent in English. During my co-op terms, some of the people that I worked with did not yet speak fluent English, but since English was the only language we had in common that was how we had to communicate. As a result, I learned how to better communicate complex topics using simpler language which I think is a very valuable skill to have learned. Even though I worked at an American Honda R&D facility, many of the Japanese practices were still in place. As a result, I was able to learn a little more about Japanese workplace customs through the practices that were still in place. Also, full time engineers would often have business trips to Honda facilities in Japan to collaborate, and hearing about the experiences from the people that went on those trips allowed me to learn a little more about Japanese culture.
The co-op terms were extremely valuable to me, not only for the engineering experience I gained but the experience has also helped me figure out what I want from a career. I know that I want to experience different companies and areas of engineering with future internships, so that I can be more sure that the career path I choose after graduating is the path that is right for me. I also learned more about what I can do to best prepare for my career. Knowing that problem solving and analytical thinking are some of the most important skills for an engineering career that I can gain from coursework, I will focus on strengthening those skills over the remainder of my courses. The experience has also influenced the courses I plan to take for technical electives. There were a few technical electives I was previously planning on taking but I learned most of the material during my co-op that would have been covered in those courses. Now I plan on taking technical electives on topics that would be able to help me in my career and strengthen my knowledge in areas that I don’t have much experience in. The major topic I want to learn more about now is manufacturing processes. During my co-op I found I was not extremely knowledgeable on different manufacturing processes and that there is a lot more I could learn about manufacturing.