Design Engineering Co-op
Job Title: Co-op Student/Intern
Major: Interdisciplinary Engineering
Received Credit: Yes
Description of the Organization
Twisthink is a collaborative company comprised of a diverse staff of engineers, computer scientists and designers. The team is relatively small, but I found this beneficial because I was given more responsibilities than I might have been given in a larger company. The office is very open, encouraging of collaboration and innovation. The atmosphere was casual, yet professional and was incredibly family oriented. I very much enjoyed the company culture as the leadership of the company was very focused on making the employees comfortable in their surroundings. The team was made up of a group of youthful individuals with whom I shared a passion for exercise, the outdoors and general well-being. It was refreshing to be surrounded by a group of such like-minded individuals. In fact, the company frequently arranged for group outings to build comradery, such as mountain biking rides, trail runs and outings to the Tulip Time festival in downtown Holland.
Description of the Tasks/Projects Completed
As a co-op student, I was placed on projects that were related to my interest. Due to the diverse make-up of the company in terms to technical and design focuses, I was exposed to a multitude of projects. My work was generally done alone, interfacing with teammates when necessary. I focused in large parts on a testing system for the user interface of a product we were working on for a customer. There was consistent correspondence with the customer as we worked together to identify bugs within the system, pinpoint their causes, and adjust the code to fix them. This was a nice project to work on in that it was nearly instant gratification. When we were able to pinpoint an error in the code, fixing the bug generally didn't take long and the device firmware was quickly updated. One of the more fun projects I completed required me to do a physical build of an office productivity unit; this hands-on project was an incredible change of pace from the research that I was so often assigned and was a great opportunity for me to express my creativity in the prototyping process and iterative stages of the design. Additional projects included an analytical demo project working to develop the company's technological resources for future projects, product benchmarking,
Skills/Knowledge Gained Through The Experience
I was surprised at how quickly the information that I had consumed within my first three years of engineering courses came into play. From the very first day, I was working on C programming, Linux, benchmarking, system architecture, and more. I had the opportunity to do a build project for an inter-office productivity project and I was delighted to be able to pull out the power tools and refine the skills that I had developed as a child and throughout my engineering experience which had laid dormant for so long. I thoroughly developed my professional communication skills, particularly in the user interface work with one of our companies. I found that I simply had not had the experience prior to this co-op to develop these communication skills. In my testing project, I learned how to create a testing plan for products. This was a unique experience because I did this essentially on my own, with my supervisor giving me a direction to head and expecting me to develop my own program. I was expected to relay back to the team regarding my findings and as such, had to quickly learn the best method by which to convey my findings in a professional manner. Overall, my diverse experiences opened my eyes to such a variety of engineering aspects, introducing new skills and developing existing ones.
Favorite Part of the Experience
I have two favorite parts about this co-op experience; the collaboration and the diversity of the projects. Twisthink is such a unique combination of people and the collaborative environment was inspiring to be a part of. I found that many of my coworkers had special interest projects that the company support to develop the technological skill base of the company. Two of my big projects were classified as 'proactive projects,' projects focused on building the companies technology capabilities for use in future customer projects. These were both collaborative projects and I found myself many times staring at a complex map of scribbles on a white board, discussing the interworking and calculations of our programs with coworkers. Additionally, I truly enjoyed the diversity of projects that Twisthink gave me exposure to. My work was always different and I learned about such an array of topics that I cannot see myself having learned in another environment.
How the Experience Influenced Future Career Goals
This experience has been incredibly beneficial as I have learned so much about myself over the past three months. For example, I realized just how much social interaction I need in a work environment. I do best with headphones in when I am trying to bust a project out, but I much prefer team projects and collaborative efforts. This was interesting because I couldn't stand group projects growing up. I found that I was so much more alert and innovative when I was working with and bouncing ideas off of my coworkers. Additionally, the great diversity of projects has helped shape my perspective and helped me to establish a more specific career focus.