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Teams of engineering students solve problems for their summer employers

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TIP summer interns (in white polo shirts) pose with Solar Turbines staff. 
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TIP intern Shayan Mahdavi, center, speaks during a presentation at ViaSat.

San Diego, Calif., Oct. 7, 2013 -- One team developed an app that speeds up and improves the quality of satellite dish installations for ViaSat. Another team engineered a solution to mounting issues for Solar Turbines' modules and auxiliary systems that could lead to a patent. These students and many more took part in the Team in Internship Program at the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego this summer, making significant contributions to the companies they worked for and learning a lot in the process, too.

“The Jacobs School interns were all motivated to find the best engineering solutions for us,” said Jack Ly, a Jacobs School alum and project design engineer at Solar Turbines.

This past summer, he coordinated the TIP program for his company. Students at Solar Turbines solved the problems they were asked to solve. Then they went above and beyond what was asked for them.

This academic year, TIP paired 300 students—83 teams—with 45 companies, including ViaSat, Solar Turbines, Qualcomm and Life Technologies. “Having a team of people means you can get larger and more complex problems solved,” said Nik Devereaux, also a Jacobs School alum and now an engineering program manager at Carlsbad-based ViaSat.

The TIP students working at ViaSat essentially undergo a three month long job interview, Devereaux said. The company recently extended job offers to many of the TIP students working there this past summer.

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ViaSat TIP interns take a break to play beach volley ball on the company's campus in Carlsbad. 

“It’s really the best way to inject new and innovative ideas into a company,” Devereaux said. “Students today are exposed to platforms and technologies that people in industry haven’t heard of yet.”

Shayan Mahdavi, a computer science major and junior at the Jacobs School, is one of the students who will come back to work at ViaSat part-time this fall. This summer, he worked on an app that helps ViaSat’s installers set up satellite dishes faster while providing better quality service.

The company provides satellite services for 500,000 subscribers, Devereaux explained. Before the app was developed, installers would have to make multiple trips up and down a ladder to run diagnostics on the modem inside the subscriber’s home in order to optimally point the antenna dish installed on the exterior of the home.  The app connects to that modem via WiFi, allowing the installer to run more diagnostics from the dish installation location, saving time—and several trips up that ladder.

Students went on rides-along with installers in Denver and wrote the app from scratch. “This app provides a win-win-win,” Devereaux said. “Our subscribers get a better quality installation in less time; our installers can do more installations per day and make more money; and ViaSat sees an increase in revenue, by getting more subscrines on line.” Mahdavi worked on the app’s programming, leaning how to develop code for Apple’s iOS in the process. He’d done internships solo before. Working in a team was much more productive, he said. “If we got stuck, we could bounce ideas off each other,” he said.

 

Meanwhile, four UC San Diego teams worked at Solar Turbines this summer, taking on projects that had a big impact on the company’s costumers, emerging markets and internal engineering, Ly said. “Solar Turbines continually recruits interns from the Jacobs School of Engineering, knowing these top caliber students will produce quality results,” he added. For example, work done by one of last year’s teams has led the company to pursue a patent.  

“We don’t want to give our interns an easy project,” Ly said. “We want to give them free reign to come up with their own engineering solutions.”

Tips to make the most of your TIP teams (courtesy of Nik Devereaux)

·         Define interesting projects which will make for a compelling experience for your interns

·         Select managers and supervisors for the teams that can provide leadership, coaching and inspiration

·         Assume your interns are capable of doing outstanding work and be aggressive in setting goals for what you want them to accomplish

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Media Contacts

Ioana Patringenaru
Jacobs School of Engineering
Phone: 858-822-0899
ipatrin@ucsd.edu

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