Air Force Research Lab Summer 23 Internship

I interned this summer at the Whiteman Air Force Base in western Missouri. I was an Engineering Flight Intern as part of the Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) Scholars program, and I worked on base everyday during my 10-week internship. I was given the task of designing a lift to help with the B-2 bomber’s maintenance operations at the start of my internship, and I spent the 10 weeks researching, engineering, and prototyping a solution to the bomber’s maintenance problems.

This was my first time working with other engineers in a work environment, and so I fully learned what it is like to work in mechanical/aerospace engineering. In school, I spend most of my time doing math and physics to solve engineering problems, and that’s what I assumed engineering was all about. However, this internship showed me the other side of engineering that I was new to, where you use creativity and teamwork to solve problems, and only later on do you use math and physics to reinforce your solutions.

Not only that, but this internship helped show me what the Air Force really is like. Since I have no family members in the military, I did not know what it was like and I never really considered the engineering side of the Air Force. However, upon arriving on base and spending 10 weeks with active Air Force engineers, I learned how close-knit they were, and I witnessed firsthand all the cool projects that the Air Force works on.

One of the best parts of my internship were the other interns. There were around 16 of us total, including me, and we were from all around the country. A few interns were local highschoolers, but the majority were college students from out of state, such as Ohio, New York, Texas, Florida, Idaho, and more. Not only that, but interns ranged from high school seniors to recent college grads, and so all this diversity was very helpful in showing me different perspectives about our projects. Even though I only had one partner for my specific project, we all worked on B-2 bomber related projects and so we all worked in the same room every day, with desks arranged conveniently to where we could talk to each other easily. In this room, we had huge whiteboards where we could share our thoughts with others, and so interns were constantly moving around the room to help each other out, even if it wasn’t directly related to their project.

During my internship, we had to present our research twice every month, with a Preliminary Design Review, Critical Design Review, and much more. Doing so helped my presentation skills immensely, especially in front of a large audience of other engineers. On top of that, I learned how to follow the engineering design process, by going through research, development, and prototyping stages. This will be very important in my future as an aerospace engineer and so it was very helpful to follow this iterative process.

Furthermore, all the staff engineers and mentors helped me significantly. They were all engineers part of the Air Force, and they were always available when I had questions about my project. I learned a lot from them, especially since they all have so many years of experience working as an engineer. On top of that, we all participated in weekly PT every Friday morning where I was able to bond with the other interns and mentors, and this was great in helping me make lifelong engineering connections.

In the future, I hope to work as an aerospace engineer in the space industry. Doing this internship and changing my views of what engineering is really like helped immensely with this goal because I am prepared for future internships and ultimately working in the aerospace industry. Now, I am familiar with working in a team-based environment, going to meetings, presenting my research, and more. Furthermore, earning security clearance through the Air Force as well as the fact that I really enjoyed working with them helped me learn that working for the Defense industry would be a great option in my future.

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