My name is McKenzie Sweeney and I am a junior mechanical engineering major at Texas A&M University (A-A-A-WHOOP!). This past summer I had the wonderful opportunity to intern at Rolls Royce in Indianapolis, Indiana as a Manufacturing Engineering intern. It was my first internship and going in I had absolutely no idea how much I would learn from it! Rolls Royce has a large intern program (> 100 students in Indianapolis alone), so it was a great company to get my first experience at because they really put an emphasis on making sure each intern is used to their full potential and is given every opportunity possible to learn. Some students may find it intimidating working for a large company or in an industry they have no experience in (manufacturing jet engines in my situation), but I will say that as long as you work hard and be yourself, you won’t have any issues standing out and thriving in any environment.
Working in manufacturing can be intimidating regardless of the company or industry. It’s no secret that there are very few women working in the plants and most of the union machine operators will be at least twice your age if you are a college intern. Don’t let this scare you away from manufacturing. This summer, some of my most eye opening and invaluable experiences came from working with those people who had more years experience than I had been alive. If you humble yourself and take the time to ask the burning questions you have, you will surprise yourself with how much you can learn in 12 weeks by just purely observing everything going on around you. The lessons were about anything from how to un-crash a machine, life advice, where to get the best donuts in town, or how to indicate a part into a machine. Be a sponge and absorb every bit of it.
A typical day for me began with a 6am department meeting to go over the daily safety message, status of the parts that were currently in our line, and where we were at for meeting our weekly/monthly production goals. Throughout the morning I worked with my boss (the manufacturing engineer for the department) to troubleshoot problems in the department that varied from having parts with dimensions out of tolerance, doing gauge accuracy and repeatability tests to making sure the gauges were measuring the parts properly, coming up with new ways to manufacture parts whose processes were written 50 years ago, or helping with the transition from manual to cnc (automatic) machines. In the afternoons we usually had meetings with all the plant engineers which allowed me to see some of the decision-making at a higher level. Always find ways to make new connections when you’re working! I met lots of fellow employees/engineers in the plant by going and asking them for help on something I was working on, asking if they had anything they needed help on, or just being present and engaged in meetings that I wasn’t required to attend.
My last piece of advice is to get to know the other interns and have fun! I met a lot of great people and went on some fun adventures with them that I will never forget. The more you challenge yourself during your summer internship both professionally and personally, the more you will get out of it!