Nathan Nordwald (January 2022 – May 2022)
Name: Nathan Nordwald
School: Missouri University of Science and Technology
Major: Mechanical Engineering
Co-op period: January 2022 – May 2022
What was the interview process like?
The interview process was relaxed, as I initially applied to the Mechanical Engineering Co-Op position online and then received a phone call from HR to set-up an online video interview. I spoke with Brian Cejka, the Co-Op Supervisor, as well as Nathan Palmer, who was my direct supervisor during my co-op. During the call, we simply spoke about my previous experience in both engineering design and general hands-on shop experience, which helped them determine whether I was a good fit for the position. After I finished the interview and a few other preliminary assessments, I was extended an offer the next week.
Most students just want experience, but they may not know what type of experience they want. Please describe some of the work you did and what type of skills you needed. It is important to note the skills you could apply from what you’ve learned in school and what you learned on the job.
During the extent of my Co-Op, I was exposed to a broad range of work, all existing in different stages of the product design cycle. As far as day-to-day activities, I often assembled prototypes for engineers, checking for proper fit and overall function. I also worked in our Model Shop while modifying and fabricating parts using our various machine tools. Additionally, I was assigned several more substantial design analysis projects, which entailed some test fixture design and implementation that allowed our engineers to verify design changes. All in all, I felt as if I was able to utilize my data analysis and design skills learned in school while learning additional skills in test design, designing for manufacturing/assembly, and general hands-on machining.
What experience do you think will be the most useful for you in the future?
I believe that the hands-on experience in test design and implementation will be most useful for me in the future, as the design verification process is something that I will use for the rest of my career, no matter what position or industry I work in.
How do you think the overall experience will help you in your career?
With mostly a manufacturing background, the overall co-op experience here at Hunter gave me my first look into the world of product development. It definitely opened me up to pursuing full-time R&D positions in the future. I believe that the breadth and fast-paced nature of the work will prepare me for any future troubleshooting or tight-deadline projects that I could encounter in a different position.
What aspect of the work did you enjoy the most?
I thoroughly enjoyed being solely responsible for the projects and work that I was assigned. This independence allowed me to gain more confidence in my work. It also helped to gain more experience updating engineers on the current status of projects and tasks. This communication is used within a team in all professional settings and helped me learn so much. The engineers were always happy to help or answer questions when needed.
What aspect of the work did you not enjoy?
There were some long days of testing that became tedious and monotonous at times but knowing that the end result would be used to make real-world engineering design changes made it all worthwhile.
Did you learn anything?
During my time as a co-op, especially considering the amount of engineering knowledge that I was surrounded with, I was able to learn in-depth skills and information about a broad range of subjects. I was exposed to many new topics, including hydraulic controls, instrumentation, signal processing, and test design, as well as gained more practice in using manufacturing processes, electrical troubleshooting, microcontroller programming, and overall mechanical design.
Students often want to know if they will work alone or in a group. Was the work you did more individual or group work, and how does it compare with what you have done in school or at another job?
Much of my work was done independently, aside from updating engineers about project statuses and occasionally asking questions to clarify project goals and other details. I would say that it is more independent than my previous internships, but similar to some school design projects. For example, each member has individual tasks to complete in order to assemble the final product.
What were your living arrangements during co-op? This question is especially important for those that are not from St. Louis.
I lived at home in Warrenton, MO during my Co-Op, which gave me about a 45-50 minute commute to and from work.
How was the supervision?
I enjoyed how the Co-Op’s were supervised. We were responsible for keeping track of our own deadlines and other project details, which gave me more practical experience in managing time in the workplace. Supervisors and other engineers just checked in to see the status of the tasks. They were very helpful when determining prioritization in extreme situations when multiple high-priority projects came up at once.
Anything else you'd like to tell us about yourself, Hunter Engineering, the co-op program or the work?
I truly believe that during a Co-Op here at Hunter, you can learn as much or as little as you want. If you truly come into the program with a desire to learn and grow as an engineer, I can guarantee that you will do just that and leave even better prepared to pursue other positions in the industry.