Cooper Tire Internship Reflection

Name: Kelsey Rafac
Type of Project: Internship

For my STEP Signature Project, I participated in an internship with Cooper Tire and Rubber Company. My position was as a Corporate Industrial Engineer. I assisted in the analysis and development of operational improvement opportunities for all the firm’s facilities. I obtained exposure to labor tuning, capacity and method analysis, plant/office layouts, process benchmarking. I also performed SMED studies to help reduce the changeover times using a Single Man Module for production.
Through this process I have learned a tremendous amount about myself. Before I assumed, I would not be treated as an equal to the other employee, only being an intern, but I was treated the same and given responsibilities as an employee. I learned to push myself out of my comfort zone. I learned it is vital to not be timid and ask questions when I am unsure about what to do or need guidance. I learned that communication is key to be successful in a work environment. If you cannot effectively communicate, it is harder for employers to respect you. I also learned to have confidence when speaking and not be afraid to add my input. It is very important to be punctual and on time for things.
One event that led me to step out of my comfort zone and take action was when I was tasked with performing SMED studies on one of the tire processes in the plant. It was a great task to start off in the plant with and give me professional experience with time studies. My task was to improve the changeover time with the tire specs. I went about this by observing and identifying the problem and finding a proper solution for it. This forced me to ask questions to different supervisors and interact with the operators. I learned to speak confidently to the operators and people who have worked there so they respected me.
Another interaction that forced me to grow, was going on a business trip with an employee. We went to Tupelo, Mississippi to work on a project in another plant of Cooper Tire. I was very uncomfortable with the situation to begin with, having never flown or stayed in a hotel room by myself before, I grew a lot through this situation. I learned to interact professionally and personally with my co-worker. It was a great experience to show me what a business trip is like and what it entails.
My last key event that helped develop me professionally, was presenting data I had collected and giving presentations. When I first began, I struggled to present data in a concise and effective manner. It was difficult for me to articulate what I was meaning to say in a concise way. Throughout my internship, I learned that not every detail is needed to present information but more so the information that is relevant and that will help the audience understand. I am glad this opportunity helped me notice this need for improvement to be able to work on myself for future endeavors.
This transformation and growth I have made throughout this process is valuable to me because it will significantly help me in the career path. I have learned how to act in a professional setting. This experience has encouraged me to learn more about my engineering field and find what I am truly passionate about within it. I have learned so much professionally that will help me, but it has also given me a greater drive to succeed academically.

STEP Reflection of Mechanical Engineering Co-op at MSA Safety

Harper Calhoun


SW assembly of the heater box


1. My project was a mechanical engineering co-op at MSA Safety in Cranberry Township, PA. My main project was to design a box to hold a heater that is used for testing in the environmental chamber. When I wasn’t working on the heater box design, I performed tests on various new products.

2. By participating in this co-op, I now know what kind of engineering I want to do after I graduate. I still want to be a biomedical engineer, but now I know I want to work with the mechanical side of biomedical engineering. I also learned that I want to work in new product development. I enjoyed seeing the development and the creation of new products and how much effort was put into it. There were multiple different designs, each of which were modeled and tested. It was interesting to see the progress and advancement of each design that led up to the final product.This project also changed my view of what an engineering job in the industry looks like. I assumed the engineer would only be testing products. But in new product development, there is a lot of research and designing involved. The engineers have meetings discussing the pros and cons of the different designs and the results of the tests performed on the prototype. When I was working on my project, I had to do a lot of research to determine the best way to design and build the heater box. I had meeting with my project mentor discussing different methods of building the heater box and he helped me chose the best option. Because of this interaction, I learned that even though there may be a lead engineer on the project, that engineer goes to their coworkers to help brainstorm and ask for feedback.

3. Designing and building the heater box taught me how the engineering design process works and how engineers have to depend on others to help get their projects done. I relied on the support and help from my project mentor to help me complete my project. Once I designed my heater box, I had the machine shop build my parts. Because of this, my project was at a standstill until the machinist made my parts. Through this, I learned that even if there is only one engineer working on a project, the engineer still depends on other people, making almost all engineering projects a team project.

I also learned that engineers work on multiple projects at the same time and they change priority during the lifetime of the project. One of my mentors was putting a lot time designing a new product when he had to switch to a new project because his became less of a priority. This showed me that engineers have to prioritize projects and have good time management skills. Time management is something I have improved upon through this co-op. I would be working on multiple projects at the same time and I would have to prioritize which one to complete first. There were times when I had to drop everything I was doing and work on a different project or do a different task because its priority was so high. I learned how to be flexible in accomplishing tasks and manage all my work and projects.

This was the first time I rented an apartment and had to live on my own, so that was a big adjustment. I had to find the apartment by myself and set up all of the utilities. I had to make a budget for groceries, entertainment, and bills. I had a studio apartment, so I was living alone. I had to learn on my own how to budget and live on my own, a skill I will use for the rest of my life.

4. This change and development matters because I now have an idea of what I want my career to be. I know I want to work in industry, especially in new product development. Before this project, I didn’t know what I wanted to do once I graduate, but now I do. I also plan on taking courses that focus more on the mechanical aspect of biomedical engineering. I also made some great friendships with the other co-ops at MSA Safety. We are all on the same rotation schedule, so I will see a friendly face when I go back in the summer. Overall, I am grateful for this experience and it has made me a better engineer.

Chemical Manufacturing Co-op Experience

Name: Shrey Mahajan

Type of Project: Internship

Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project.

I worked at ExxonMobil’s Baytown Olefins Plant during the Fall semester of 2018 as an Olefins Technical Co-op – specifically in a Process Engineering role. The Olefins Plant converts ethane to ethylene and is the largest such facility in the world. It is part of the integrated Baytown Complex, which includes a Refinery and Chemical Plant. Leveraging my Chemical Engineering education, I worked to progress long term capital projects, run plant tests on equipment, and optimize overall ethylene production.

What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project?

At the start of college, I was a student set on a career in medicine and began in the major Biomedical Science. However, after reflecting on my future, I decided to switch to Chemical Engineering so I would be assured a backup career option. From the beginning, I was worried that medicine might not be my preferred choice. Indeed, while progressing through my courses, I gained an appreciation for all that I learned – both in my pre-medical curriculum and in engineering. I found that I was increasingly unsure of which career to choose.

To further understand my interests, I began applying for internships and chose an offer from ExxonMobil. After starting my co-op, within the first few weeks, I quickly found value in the work completed. I was assigned several projects, each of which involved learning about the nuances of a manufacturing facility. I spent many hours studying P&IDs, PFDs, and our operating manuals. I also learned the technical calculations underpinning equipment operation, such as that for piping, pumps, and reactors.

I found that I not only enjoyed my work, but truly loved the challenge presented every single day. I had to continuously learn and improve in my daily interactions. From this, I grew far more confident in my technical and interpersonal skills – factors that I know I will use throughout my life.

What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project affected you?

During the four months I spent in Baytown, Texas, I found that my professional and career priorities had drastically changed. This can be attributed to several key criteria – the work completed, the plant environment, the company culture, and the people.

To begin, the work I completed challenged me in ways I hadn’t anticipated. During my first week, I was given a list of projects and key deliverables I would be responsible for. Looking at this was entirely overwhelming as this was my first industry experience. I hadn’t learned nearly enough in my classes to feel as though I was prepared – in fact, I felt completely out of place. However, over the weeks, I leveraged the knowledge of our Contact Engineers, equipment files, and especially Google to gain an understanding of the process I was now a part of. Most importantly, I learned the importance of the work assigned to me – I had been given projects that needed to be completed for financial, environmental, and safety reasons. By the end of my term, I was able to drive true progress on every task assigned.

The next key factor was the plant environment. One of my projects involved the construction of new facilities in the plant. To work on this, I sat at my desk and determined our process operating conditions and our needed specifications. I compiled needed forms and documentation to progress the project. However, to complete the engineering design work, I had the opportunity to conduct field work. I loved putting on my PPE – my hard hat, fire-resistant clothing, gloves, and hearing protection – and entering the actual plant. I learned the importance of safety in each task completed and went out dozens of times to trace piping, conduct pressure surveys, or to just learn more about the overall process.

Lastly, I enjoyed the company culture – especially the people I had the opportunity to work with. Many of my coworkers had entered their current role recently and were also learning the process alongside myself. In the work I was assigned, I became the expert – I learned to present this technical information in one-on-one settings, in meetings, and in presentations. Through this, I learned to be confident in the recommendations I made. Alongside the work, I also had the opportunity to volunteer with my fellow co-ops and attend several social events in nearby Houston. All these factors made me decide to work towards joining a chemical manufacturer as my starting career.

Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life?

Going forward, I am entirely confident in my future career path. Whereas in the past I had toyed with a medical career or research path, I am now set on starting my career working as a Chemical Engineer. To this end, I will be returning to ExxonMobil as a Cost Engineering Intern this summer. While this is a completely different role, I anticipate that I will learn as much from it as I did this Fall. From all that I’ve done, I’ve learned to leverage my academic inclinations towards industry. I’ve gained confidence in my abilities and have learned key software, calculations, and concepts that I can utilize in the future. Going forward, I am working on deciding where to start my full-time career after graduation.


Co-ops at the Baytown Olefins Plant during Fall 2018

STEP Reflection: Purchasing Intern at Nationwide Insurance

This was my second year back at Nationwide Insurance. I supported the Procure to Pay Department, specifically the Purchasing team. My team was in charge of everything that Nationwide employees needed to purchase throughout all the offices in the nation. Our team created item catalogs, software kits/packages on PeopleSoft, approved employee requisitions, paid supplier invoices, negotiated with suppliers, and so much more.

Before my internship, I was a nervous college student looking to gain more experience in the professional world. Even though I was fortunate to have previous experience at Nationwide last school year, it was still nerve wrecking because my supervisor told me we added 7 new people to our team, therefore my roles would change. The change made me especially nervous since I found out last minute that I would have different responsibilities than I normally had last time. That unfamiliarity made me uncomfortable and scared to start what felt like a brand-new internship. I kept thinking that I would not be capable of the new tasks I would have to do. In the end, thanks to my perseverance and the amazing team, I realized I should have never doubted myself.

Walking into Nationwide on my first day was very exciting and scary at the same time. I was happy to be back but also nervous to meet all these new people on my team that had no idea who I was. I was luckily still working with the same supervisor which helped me stay at ease. Everyone was so welcoming, and they told me that my supervisor had nothing but great things to say about me since my last internship, which actually made me even more terrified because I was scared I wouldn’t be able to live up to those expectations.

I was given the main responsibility of clearing match exceptions. Match exceptions occur when the purchase order price approved does not match the invoice of the supplier, thus preventing Nationwide’s automatic system from paying the supplier’s invoice. The tricky thing with match exceptions is that there are so many different causes of why it is stuck in exception. One of the easier ways to fix it is if it was a re-alignment issue. All I would need to do was request for the Accounts Payable team to fix it. The more difficult causes were when the purchase order was overdrawn by hundreds to even hundreds of thousands of dollars. The protocol for this was contacting the business unit or the requester, depending if it was a physical product or a software purchase. A set back with that is that the business unit or requester would take days to respond, when I had a deadline. In the end, I was able to keep up with the deadlines and was recognized for clearing exceptions dating back since August that the team had been trying to clear out for months.

Even though I was successful in clearing the match exceptions and helping my team greatly, I could not have done it without constantly meeting one of the associates on the team for training and advice. Since there were so many methods to clearing the exceptions and so many issues that would arise, I could not have done it without someone’s guidance. Thanks to my interaction with this specific associate it helped me succeed. In addition, I still had other responsibilities as well, which allowed me to be multi-productive.

The change I see in myself is extremely valuable to my life. Not only did I help my team, but I saw so much growth in myself from this internship more than the ones I’ve had before. I made a huge impact on my team, was productive, and met deadlines consistently. Even more importantly, I grew professionally more than I ever had. I did not know if being a business student was right for me, until this internship. I used to question if I was qualified for the job. When I declared myself a business major, I had fears that I would regret it and not know what I was doing. Now I know that this is something I am more than capable of doing. I far exceeded my own expectations.


STEP Reflection: Product Commercialization Co-op at The Hershey Company

Name: Emily McDonel

Type of Project: Internship

  • Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. Write two or three sentences describing the main activities your STEP Signature Project entailed.

I was the product commercialization co-op at The Hershey Company in Hershey, PA during the fall of 2018.  As an engineering co-op, I worked on the startup of a production line to produce our newest product, and have also implemented my skills and learnings in the food technology labs and the pilot plant to determine why certain products were not processing as expected.

  • What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP
    Signature Project? Write one or two paragraphs to describe the change or transformation that took place.

After completing this project, I realized that I want to pursue a career in the food and beverage industry.  Throughout this co-op, I was able to combine my passions for both engineering and research to make a positive impact on the company.  In the food and beverage industry, I will be able to continue this path while working in a less harsh environment than a research lab — it is much easier to work with chocolate than hazardous chemicals.

  • What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in
    #2, and how did those affect you? Write three or four paragraphs describing the key aspects of your experiences completing your STEP Signature Project
    that led to this change/transformation.

At Hershey, I was able to aid in the start-up of our newest product: a mash up between Hershey chocolate and Reese’s Pieces.  This was the first time I had been in a production plant, and it was incredible.  I was able to see the process from the making of the chocolate to the packaging of the final product.  There were a multitude of people and talents that were needed to aid in this start-up, and it truly showed that it didn’t matter how smart you were or what your GPA was, but how you applied your intelligence and skills.

I have always been willing to get my hands dirty and figure out how something works which allowed me to be of assistance on the production floor even during my first rotation.  This also led to me being asked back to the production plant to aid in troubleshooting a problem on an additional line later in my rotation.  These skills also led to much pilot plant work.  In the pilot plant, process equipment and design are tested to determine the ideal parameters for the production of new products and the optimization of current ones.  Pilot plant testing not only led to a chocolate coating on a product but also on various articles of clothing.  Although, I enjoyed the experience every step of the way and often went home smelling of coca butter.  Win win.

Overall, this experience was transformational as it allowed me to experience many  aspects of The Hershey Company and the confectionery industry.  Hershey provided many opportunities as a first rotation co-op which not many companies do.  They also had different events and business resource groups within the company to make sure minorities — such as women engineers — felt included and had a support group behind them.  This experience illuminated the fact that these are the types of ideals and programs I would want the company I work for to have and will be sure to look for in future interviews and career decisions.

  • Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life? Write one or two paragraphs discussing why this change or development matters and/or relates to your academic, personal, and/or
    professional goals and future plans.

This experience has been significant as it has narrowed my career interests to the food and beverage industry.  It has also showed me ideals I want in the company for which I will be working; in interviews the company is not only interviewing you, but you are also interviewing the company.  Academic wise, I will be adding a food processing minor to continue courses on a field I am passionate about and make me more competitive in the job market.  I will be returning to Hershey in the summer of 2019 and am excited for the new opportunities I will have and the new skills I will learn.

Overlook of Hershey, PA

Assisting Reese at our annual children’s Halloween event