Engineering Summer Experience
University of Idaho College of Engineering students spend their summers in paid, hands-on mentorship, internship and employment positions. Many accept positions in our nationally recognized, on-campus research centers and with leading industry partners.
Check out what some of our students are doing to fund their college education and gain additional hands-on experience.
Vandal engineer Adrienne Shea is helping NASA astronauts stay healthy during space travel and expanding our understanding of the galaxy we live in.
Shea is a chemical engineering graduate fellow with the NASA Idaho Space Grant Consortium, continuing development led by Chemical Engineering Professor Matthew Bernards on a bacteria adhesion resistant coating for use in space vehicles to protect astronauts from sickness and disease.
“When astronauts are out on a mission, it’s hard to bring everyone home if someone gets an infection,” she said. “By preventing bacteria from sticking to surfaces in the first place, we can travel further while keeping everyone safe.”
Shea is developing polymers that are non-fouling and bacteria resistant, meaning they resist the collection of proteins and bacteria, allowing surfaces to stay germ-free longer and lowering the potential spread of infection.
These polymers also have major application as coatings for biomedical devices, including organ transplants, joint replacements and more. Their non-fouling properties keep devices implanted in body from being identified as foreign and rejected.
Vandal engineer Aman Gupta is spending his summer finding new ways to lower greenhouse gas emissions, producing heat and energy essential to many manufacturing processes through renewable methods.
The chemical engineering graduate student works in Chemical Engineering Professor Vivek Utgikar's lab, building a chemical heat pump and energy storage system that uses reversible chemical reaction to amplify temperature by manipulating reaction conditions to produce heat needed in many industrial manufacturing and electricity applications.
Most companies rely on fossil fuels like coal and natural gas to produce high-temperature heat needed in the production of products like petroleum and paper goods. These processes make up the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S.
Gupta’s alternative provides a renewable heat source that can be stored at times of low electricity demand, used directly in industrial processes or reconverted into electricity at times of increased demand.
Chemical engineering senior Rahul Bhusal is spending his summer helping Micron improve processes to manufacture computer memory chips.
Bhusal works closely with a team of engineers across disciplines.
"This internship provided me with the opportunity to work in a diverse environment, which I think is one of the useful aspects of a successful career,” he said. “Working in the real world is different than university class, and Micron is helping me gain those experiences, including cooperation and how to communicate with a diverse group of professionals.”
Over time, all metals will crack. For modern applications – from airplane fuselages to gas lines and protective roofs – the important question is, when?
Mechanical engineering senior Troy Hanes is spending his summer testing high-heat superalloys using specialized devices, some constructed by students within the lab, to research creep fatigue, or the deformation or cracking of material placed under mechanical loads – physical stress or force – and high heat..
“For parts that are designed to be replaced, like parts in a car, cracks are to be expected,” Hanes said. “But for parts you can’t replace, like a turbine or a reactor, we need to be able to anticipate when that machinery might fail for proper maintenance and safety.”
Test pieces of nickel-based and stainless-steel alloys are placed under intense heat and physical stress,, and cracks within the metal are assessed as they develop. While some metals fail early, Hanes said one of the tests in the lab has been ongoing for more than 80 days.
McKenzie Reid and William Thielman
Vandal engineers are spending quality time with Arctic Cat this summer!
Mechanical engineering juniors McKenzie Reid and William Thielman are interning at the national snowmobile and all-terrain vehicle manufacturer’s factory in Thief River Falls, Minnesota.
Reid is coding a work instruction template for the company’s manufacturing line, learning how to calibrate engines and using simulation and other manufacturing software.
Thielman is working alongside the paint engineering team to address quality control on the manufacturing line. He also helped the electrical engineering department install a functional engine and fuel test bench and is learning how to use dynamometer and calibration software with the engine calibration team.
Mechanical engineering senior Nicolas Burrows spent his summer calibrating sensors used in wind tunnel and military aircraft testing for NASA, SpaceX and Lockheed Martin.
Burrows was an intern with pressure and temperature instrumentation leader Scanivalve in Liberty Lake, Washington.
When not conducting internal volume studies of new products, component and process design improvements and designing system control panels at work, he’s pursuing his love of flying in an airplane he finished building last spring!
Mechanical engineering senior Shalom Masango spent her summer with Applied Materials, a leader in materials engineering solutions used to produce virtually every new computer chip and advanced display in the world!
As a manufacturing engineering intern, Shalom’s role was to improve the Chemical Mechanical Planarization (CMP) process for faster build times while maintaining Applied Materials' high quality standards and commitment to a safe workplace.
CMP is a material removal step that occurs at several points in the fabrication process of the silicon wafers that make up computer chips. CMP tools ensure a wafer meets precise flatness specifications that enable further processing. This is done through a process of polishing the wafer using an abrasive polishing slurry.
In the fast-paced environment of manufacturing engineering, Shalom worked on packaging improvements to prevent shipment damage, corrective actions for parts that recently failed, mapping and streamlining the build and test of CMP products, and designing and 3D printing jigs to facilitate CMP manufacturing.
Past Summer Experiences
Wil Jansen Van Beek
How do you move 7-and-a-half tons of machinery? Get a Vandal engineer to do it.
Wil Jansen Van Beek is spending his summer at worldwide lumber producer Interfor. He designed a low-cost temporary structure to move a critical machine at the company's Port Angeles, Washington, sawmill that was nearing the end of its useful life.
Jansen Van Beek is a University of Idaho Cooperative Education (Co-op) student, earning up to $20,000 alternating classroom study with hands-on employment experience.
“To me, engineering is solving a unique problem in a methodical and safe manner. I used all the tools and best practices available to me to make this a successful project," the mechanical engineering senior said. "Because of the skills I learned from U of I, my project was completed a day and a half ahead of schedule, and my team was able to enjoy more of the holiday weekend.”
The sawmill is powered by the waste products it generates, and this machine sorts wood waste into chips for sale or sawdust that can be used as a renewable heat source for drying lumber in kilns or powering boilers on site.
The machine was one of the original pieces of equipment on the second floor of the mill and could no longer be picked up by a crane from where it was installed. Jansen Van Beek said measurements and modeling had to be precise to minimize shutdown time at the high-production facility
“I used basic physics skills to do an analysis of the load on the structure,” he said. “I used my SolidWorks skills to create a model and the best practices taught to me by my mechanical engineering professors to create professional and efficient computer-aided design documents. I even used equations my upper-level classes to make safety decisions about bolt patterns and welds.”
Koffi Anderson Koffi
For Koffi Anderson Koffi, the key to combatting cyber-attack is a deeper understanding of changes in temperature, electrical, and electromagnetic signals in devices under attack.
Working at our Idaho Falls campus under computer science Assistant Professor Constantinos Kolias, Anderson Koffi is analyzing physical characteristics like these, using machine learning, to develop cybersecurity tools with widespread application in both the public and private sectors.
Learn more about our tech-based cybersecurity undergraduate and graduate programs and 15 dedicated faculty at the link in bio!
“Cybersecurity is a broad topic. Everyone can find a subset in what they’re interested in," he said. "It’s everything from creating secure software, developing firewalls, and other security tools to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of computer systems. There are multiple paths to choose from.”
Inside every computing device there’s a central processing unit, or CPU, an electronic device that can generate heat and electromagnetic waves.
“Understanding a base model of the functionality of a device allows us to describe that device when it’s not under a state of attack,” the first-year graduate student said. “If we know the characteristics of a device working properly under normal conditions, we can easily identify any divergence from that.”
Anderson Koffi said old solutions like antivirus don’t protect against all types of cyber attack. With some ransomware attacks and USB attacks that don’t require internet access, he said the need for a more unified solution is clear.
“Some devices have different architectures, and different companies create different devices,” he said. “This research will offer a unified way to find solutions that work across all devices.”
Lily Mason knows not everyone thinks like a computer.
In tic-tac-toe for example, a computer doesn’t understand the meaning of a winning three in a row, but it can learn the steps needed to get to that solution.
Mason thinks in the same way. A computer science junior and programmer at her core, she is working in our on-campus Polymorphic Game Studio, developing the user interface for a field station simulator to immerse K-12 students in a multi-player environment where they can learn more about tick-borne diseases in the U.S.
“It’s important not to overload the user with information, to provide an interface that’s correct to the game but doesn’t just make the computer programmer happy,” she said. “It has to be easy to use.”
Mason spent the summer working with fellow computer science major Ryan Wagner, graduate student Samuel Carlson and lead designer Landon Wright on the ecology-based video game.
The gameplay is connected to a nearly $6 million National Science Foundation cooperative agreement, using large and complex data sets to improve prediction and response measures for tick-borne diseases.
Junior, Mechanical Engineering
Mechanical engineering junior Shalom Masango is spending her summer keeping us connected to the power grid.
The Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship recipient is testing the fatigue properties of a commercial aluminum used frequently by global power systems protection leader SEL Technology—Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories.
Knowing when aluminum components could fail helps design better housing to protect electronic products that are critical to large power systems.
Masango runs tests that can last anywhere from four minutes to four hours, exposing aluminum test pieces to fluctuating levels of stress.
Tests are conducted using a device custom-built by Vandal engineers in our college’s Interdisciplinary Capstone Design Program, recognized by the National Academy of Engineering as one of the top programs in the nation.
Bending metal, through vibration or direct loading, affects its durability, and it will eventually break. The device bends test pieces in quick succession, counting and recording the number of revolutions incurred before the piece fails.
Masango is using the data to, within a reasonable level of certainty, predict under what conditions a piece may fail. She said the research fulfills her interests in both mechanical engineering and computer science.
She also plans to use the experience to land a paid position with the Cooperative Education (Co-op) Program next spring. The program gives students the opportunity to alternate terms of classroom study with paid, hands-on employment experience and earn up to $20,000 per session.
Mechanical Engineering Graduate Student
My first semester at U of I really opened up my mind to this idea of making sure we’re creating products and doing it in an environmentally conscious way. That’s the responsibility of all engineers in the 21st century.”
Mechanical engineering graduate student Tais Mitchell is improving the energy efficiency of what has the potential to be one of the most sustainable construction materials on the market.
He is part of the cross-college, interdisciplinary team working to develop a 3D-printing process for modular wall, floor and roof panels made from locally sourced Idaho wood fibers not used by the lumber market.
Working with professor Ralph Budwig and Integrated Design Lab Interim Director Damon Woods, Mitchell is looking at how heat moves through this 3D-printed material comprised of waste wood from mills and processing plants. He designed from scratch a thermal testing apparatus that can simulate and measure temperature differences between the inside and outside of a scaled prototype.
“In addition to making buildings more energy efficient, the process in which we accomplish that is also very important,” Mitchell said. “Since we are in the early design phase, we can explore using natural materials that further reduce the global warming potential and pollutants released into the air during manufacturing.”
Funded under a $1 million grant from the Higher Education Research Council and Idaho Global Entrepreneurial Mission, the project is expected to positively impact Idaho's fast-growing construction industry.
A 3D printing device is also being constructed by graduate students on the Moscow campus, and efforts continue to identify the best binding agents for the wood material.
Civil Engineering Graduate Student
Proper wastewater treatment is essential to protecting our ecosystems and making sure we can reuse water when possible.
Civil engineering graduate student Lindsey Smoot is spending her summer improving methods that could cut wastewater treatment costs by up to 70%.
Smoot is working in Civil Engineering Professor Erik Coats Environmental Engineering Laboratory to improve biological nitrogen removal processes used in wastewater treatment.
Wastewater undergoes a two-step process called nitrification, in which high amounts of ammonia, a nitrogen compound, is converted to nitrite and nitrate.
Nitrification uses oxygen to aid the ammonia to nitrate conversion. Using bioreactors housing microorganisms in very specific environments, Smoot is looking at how a shortcut in the nitrification process could use 25% less oxygen and cut treatment cost.
Smoot started working in the lab before she finished her undergraduate degree in civil engineering in 2019.
“Water is such a resource, working in the lab has shown me how water reuse processes are going to be incredibly vital to our future.”
Mechanical Engineering Sophomore
For 21 years, Vandal engineers have competed in the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Clean Snowmobile Challenge. Our Clean Snowmobile Challenge (CSC) Team has collected more than 50 competition awards in that time.
Two decades of Vandal innovation has generated a lot of spare parts and retired machines!
Mechanical engineering sophomore McKenzie Reid is an intern with the National Institute for Advanced Transportation Technology (NIATT), breaking down machine equipment and sorting it into recyclable parts.
Reid said the experience has sharpened her project management skills and piqued her continued interest in how mechanical devices work.
Reid is also researching solutions this summer for the CSC team’s continuously variable transmission (CVT) test bench, designing a device to collect efficiency data on the automatic transmission system that can continuously change gear ratio.
From House to 3D-Printed Home
Vandal engineers are pushing the boundaries of construction and manufacturing, using one of Idaho's most natural and renewable products - wood.
Mechanical engineering graduate students Robert Carne and Conal Thie are part of a cross-college, interdisciplinary team working to develop a 3D printing process for the sustainable manufacturing of modular wall, floor and roof panels made from locally sourced wood.
Working with faculty advisor Michael Maughan, the two are continuing development and testing of a 3D printer capable creating 2-by-3-foot wood panels that can be prototyped for industrial use. The printing process uses a binding agent and wood fibers not used by the lumber market, like waste wood and sawdust from mills and wood processing plants. The team is continuing to work to refine their custom extruder design and continuous layering method.
“This could revolutionize construction,” Thie said. “If we can make houses and other structures more efficient with a lot less waste, we can also construct buildings faster, while using fewer resources and a lot less energy.”
Funded under a $1 million grant from the Higher Education Research Council and Idaho Global Entrepreneurial Mission, the project is expected to positively impact Idaho's fast-growing construction industry.
University of Idaho College of Art and Architecture’s Integrated Design Lab (IDL) research scientist Ken Baker leads the grant, and our college and the College of Natural Resources will continue to interface on the project this summer and beyond.
Under the guidance of U of I Professor of Renewable Materials Chemistry Armando McDonald, chemical engineering graduate student Berlinda Orji analyzed how different chemical compounds reacted to applied conditions to identify the best binding agents for the 3D printing material.
Focus continues to be placed not only on durability of printed materials. Our Boise team, including graduate student Tais Mitchell, professor Ralph Budwig and IDL Interim Director Damon Woods, is also continuing testing on the material’s ability to insulate and stand the test of time.
Mechanical Engineering Doctoral Student
Salmon eggs rely on water flow to supply dissolved oxygen needed to grow and hatch. That flow can be disrupted in drought-prone areas, affecting fish populations.
Mechanical engineering doctoral student Brandon Hilliard is spending his summer studying the chemical and biologic processes that occur in water flow through the sediment of a simulated salmon redd, or egg nest.
Using a clear sediment simulant developed by the Boise Center for Ecohydraulics Research (CER), Hilliard is working with a team at the University of California Santa Cruz to help water management teams learn more about the water and sediment flows that salmon eggs rely on to grow properly and hatch.
Hilliard uses different methods to “see through” the clear sediment, including matching the refractive index – or how light travels through different materials – of the sediment simulant and the working fluid. He plans to also use Planar Laser-Induced Fluorescence (PLIF) to obtain flow velocities. Shining a laser through a fluorescent dye within the porous media causes the dye to emit orange light. That light is then captured using a special camera and tracked to obtain the velocities within the egg nest.
Civil Engineering Class of 2021
Concrete is one of the most widely used construction materials in the world, and a properly designed mixture ensures long-term strength and durability.
“As engineers, we’re always looking for ways to simplify different processes. With concrete, it’s hard to simplify, because every part of its creation is important, from the aggregates used to create it, the way it’s mixed, the way it cures, and how it’s used.”
University of Idaho civil engineering graduate Jade Williams ’21 is spending her summer working with geotechnical engineering firm Geotek, Inc., to conduct compressive strength tests on the concrete used in the construction of the Idaho Central Credit Union Arena.
So far, Williams has conducted tests on more than 500 field-cured cylinder samples taken from concrete pours around the arena. Using a compression testing machine, Williams is recording the strength of prepared samples at regular intervals throughout construction to help ensure quality and safety specifications are being met.
Williams is also interning remotely for consulting firm HMH Engineering this summer as well as conducting research for the National Institute for Advanced Transportation Technology.
Civil Engineering Senior
Eighty gallons of wastewater filter through the Environmental Engineering Laboratory each week.
Civil engineering senior Nick Buonarati is spending his summer making sure the innovative wastewater treatment research flowing through that water continues smoothly.
“Water is a renewable resource, but it is finite resource,” Buonarati said, “That’s why wastewater treatment is such an important process. It lets us minimize, or even negate in some instances, our impact upon the world’s water supply.”
The lab houses several bioreactors housing microorganisms in precise environments. Buonarati conducts regular tests to ensure reactor probes and calibrations are correct to make sure no research is compromised.
He also makes regular trips to Moscow’s Water Reclamation and Reuse Facility to check on other experiments going on at the scale model plant designed to mimic processes going on in the larger facility.
“Working in Dr. Coats’ Environmental Engineering Lab has been helpful in understanding how research is conducted in this field,” he said, “I am learning how treatment plants operate in class, and designing my own treatment system. I wouldn’t have the understanding that I have in this field without my lab experience.”
Refer back to this website for more summer highlights!