Engineering new experiences through internships

Cornell College students are interning in a variety of engineering fields as they pave the way for the future.

Cornell’s faculty and students are the first to say that the ABET-accredited engineering program isn’t your average engineering program. It has a strong focus on internships and real-world project learning. Plus, students don’t specialize in one field such as mechanical, electrical, or civil engineering. 

That’s the magic behind a Cornell engineering degree–the students get the opportunity to do it all.

Mix in the block plan where students focus on One Course At A Time for 3 ½ weeks without worrying about any other classes, and there’s no stopping these engineers.

“This system is the closest you can come to replicating the daily life of an engineer whose job is mostly project-based,” said junior engineering major Tanner Allen. “Real-world job training does not take place on a semester plan, so why not learn in the way you will be expected to work?”

Students learn quickly on this model and can adapt their skills for many positions.

“Industry engineering jobs are becoming more interdisciplinary,” said Assistant Professor of Engineering Brian Johns. “Engineers today need to use advanced design software, analyze complex data, and collaborate with diverse teams across the globe. Cornell College’s engineering program prepares the students for the future by emphasizing critical thinking, communication, and teamwork.” 

Tanner Allen

Tanner Allen in an underground subway tunnel
Tanner Allen in a Los Angeles subway tunnel

This engineering major from Illinois is currently working in Los Angeles as a heavy civil engineering intern. He’s taking his skills underground as he helps with the construction of a new subway station below the streets of the city. His role is to assess the current condition of the waterproofing system.

He also worked above ground during the summer of 2020 as a construction management and engineering intern with the Illinois Department of Transportation. Allen assisted with a three-mile asphalt resurfacing project.

“My main job was to ensure that the contractor was following the design plans while also comparing their work to standards making certain the roadway was safe for public use,” Allen said. “Being able to construct something people rely on every day is something I will always be proud of.”

He says many of the teams he has worked with don’t work solely within one engineering discipline.

“Many use a little bit of each specific type of engineering to produce successful results,” Allen said. “By implementing multiple team-based projects, creating unique writing assignments, and pushing students to present their designs/findings, the Cornell engineering degree sets engineering students up to be well-rounded professionals that possess many of the skills not traditionally found in engineers.”

Abdulla Awaji 

Abdulla Awaji
Abdulla Awaji

Abdulla Awaji finished a combined civil and industrial engineering internship over winter break in his home country of Bahrain. The engineering major worked with a company on opening a new ice plant and a reverse-osmosis water plant.

“This opportunity was an interesting one as it gave me the chance to learn about the methods used to run water and ice plants,” Awaji said. “I am also extremely interested in, and skilled at, learning and excelling at new technologies, and therefore had the chance to see what type of technologies and programs are used to design such plants and how they are run on a day-to-day basis.”

Awaji says Assistant Professor of Engineering Brian Johns helped him push for this opportunity, and now he’s interested in a career with a water-purification company.

“My favorite thing about Cornell College’s engineering department is the deeper relationships you develop with your professors,” Awaji said. “I feel that the professors at Cornell really care about their students and go out of their way to help them succeed.”

Flannery Henke-Haney 

Flannery Henke-Haney testing a drone
Flannery Henke-Haney testing out her design

Flannery Henke-Haney completed an internship with Sentera in her home state of Minnesota during the summer of 2020. The engineering major helped make drone sensors and airplane drones for crop monitoring. 

This senior says her courses set her on the path to success.

“I’m really interested in mechanical engineering and I actually got the job because of the sheer amount of Creo experience I had. Creo is the computer-aided design (CAD) software that we use at Cornell. Every mechanical engineering class I’ve taken has needed at least one CAD model,” Henke-Haney said.

She says this type of career is something she could see herself doing in the future.

“I think being able to see and refine my design all the way through testing was incredible.”

Jared Mason

Senior Jared Mason also put his Cornell engineering skills to use during the summer of 2020 as a coating engineer intern for a worldwide manufacturer of flat glass. 

Jared Mason
Jared Mason

“One of the main projects that I worked on was an oil skid process flow diagram,” Mason said. “The diagram took almost my whole time at Pilkington and consisted of different machines, loops, and tubes that make up the oil skids used at the plant.” 

He says after taking One Course At A Time with Cornell’s engineering faculty, he was ready to take on the internship and found success in the work he was doing.

“My favorite thing about the engineering department is how hands-on the program is,” Mason said. “Many of the classes are hands-on and give you first-hand experience for future employment opportunities.”

Johns says his students get all the credit for applying for these internships. It’s something engineering faculty members talk about and encourage from day one. 

“We recognize the importance of internships as part of learning. The department, along with the Berry Career Institute, dedicates time to developing application materials with each student,” Johns said. “Students start developing these professional materials in their first year and continue to revise them throughout the engineering curriculum.”

 Cornell students are engineering their own path to a successful career through each and every internship opportunity.