Week 9: Internship Part I

Week 9: Internship Overview Part I

There is only one week left of the internship and one week left in Costa Rica. For these last two blog entries (this weeks and next weeks), I want to talk about my internship and my projects. Perhaps, if you are reading this with an interested eye in the GMI program, you will be in my shoes in less than a year and I hope whatever information I give can be helpful to you. For today, I will focus on the technical aspects of my projects and what I have learned from this experience.

  1. Seek feasibility, not perfection


There is a famous military quote: “No battel survives contact with the enemy”. The same theme is repeated in famous literature: “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry”. What both of these quotes attempt to communicate applies well to engineering design as well. No design, no matter how perfectly thought-out, no matter how detailed, will work as expected on the first iteration. At the same time, more than likely, whatever design you create likely will not please all those invested. For this reason it is important to make a rapid decision, keep some features general and easy to change if necessary, and prototype quickly.


  1. Detailed documentation


Interns in some ways have it very difficult. In other ways it’s even more difficult for the employees that they leave behind. The employees are the ones who will have to carry projects on to completion. For this reason, it is vital to document every step of the internship. For me that involved keeping track of the design process (What things were considered? What isn’t going to work? What is?) and keeping detailed notes on the testing that was accomplished. Over the course of the internship I performed three major tests that provided important information to not only the manufacturing process but also my design project. Because these tests involve medical product, documentation and systematic representation of the process and results is not only imperative, but also required by company and national policy.


  1. Understand all project needs


My projects themselves had very clear goals that were given to me very early on in the internship process. Unfortunately, while the goals themselves were straight forward the path to achieving those results were not. My biggest struggle this summer has been finding a solution that met all project needs and one of my biggest set-backs was when I realized I hadn’t considered a critical need. Not only did this make previous work no longer relevant but it eventually created the delays that made my project impossible to finish. It is important to consider all needs and get stakeholder opinion early and often!


  1. Do not “wait for ALL resources”


I made a mistake early on in the internship to wait for a piece of equipment from the United States before doing anything with a project. I did not get that piece of hardware until last week and unfortunately, because I had chosen to wait, I now have no way of testing the hardware. I should have been requesting test components much earlier on in the summer. The point: Think of all the things you could be doing in the meantime! Don’t wait!


Anyway, that’s all for now! Until next week!

Jeannette Nelson


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