Here at GCAMP we're constantly promoting the value of internships and apprenticeships as mutually beneficial endeavors. It's easy to understand why they work, but it never gets old hearing real-world success stories about how this arrangement can have a profound affect on the next generation of manufacturers. This month we're pleased to spotlight Quinn Robinson's story.
Quinn Robinson found out about GCAMP from his engineering instructor while in his junior year at Rolling Meadows High School (District 214). He had already been involved in Project Lead the Way (PLTW), the school’s Engineering career pathway program, since his freshman year. His instructor, Mr. Genovese, asked him to participate in a breakfast meeting GCAMP hosted to bring together manufacturers and teachers to talk about internship and apprenticeship opportunities. Quinn attended the event and met representatives from companies in the Golden Corridor region. He then found he was offered the chance to take an internship to learn, firsthand, about real-world mechanical engineering skills used in manufacturing. He leapt at the chance.
Today, Quinn is 19 years old and completing his first year at Bradley University where is his pursuing a degree in mechanical engineering. He credits his engineering classes in high school and his participation with GCAMP to land an internship with BIG KAISER, a manufacturer of precision cutting tools, for cultivating his interest in manufacturing as a career. It also helped that he was born with mechanical aptitude and a desire to learn how things work, including the family computers, toaster, and blender, he says.
The following is Quinn’s account of his experiences, both in high school and in his internship at BIG KAISER. He wanted to share in his own words, some of the interesting, even amazing things he learned, and what having the internship meant to him as he followed his career pathway to manufacturing.
Quinn Robinson: The Value of Going Beyond the Core Curriculum
The engineering department at my high school did an amazing job, giving me a glimpse into what it's like to work in the field of engineering. We studied manufacturing concepts and practices and were fortunate enough to have some hands-on experience with equipment like a Haas three-axis CNC mill, a CNC lathe and a plasma cutter. We also learned basic welding, but that doesn't come close to experiencing what it is like out in the industry—not by a long shot.
Learning about making a product and producing that product are like night and day. No matter how hard a district tries, a school is still a school and sadly, it doesn't have the capabilities that a manufacturing facility has. While BIG KAISER does not have a production floor at its Hoffman Estates facility, their showroom still replicates the environment perfectly. Interning there gave me an up-close opportunity to see what working in manufacturing is like.
For example, in class you never hear about setting up new machines, or the maintenance that machines require. In class you do not get to experience what happens when something goes wrong, and the steps taken to fix it. In class you do not get to go through the design process for a part that takes weeks to design. It depends on where you intern, but at BIG KAISER I was able to help solve problems and contribute. In class you miss a certain level of fun and entertainment that comes with hands-on experience in a real engineering setting, too. It is not all seriousness in the workplace. There are company celebrations, breaks and other opportunities that let you socialize and get to know your co-workers. Even when working, it can be fun. I worked on a ridiculously complex Workholding device with my mentor, Nick Jew, research and development engineer at BIG KAISER, and we had a lot of laughs as we tried to find a practical solution for the device.
My favorite part about having an internship was the different equipment that you get to use that a school would not be able to afford. For example, I was able to learn how to use a tool presetter for prepping tooling, and I helped set up an Okuma five-axis milling machine that was going to be used to demo cutting tools at IMTS (International Manufacturing Technology Show). So much goes into getting it within microns. It was mind blowing!
At school they showed us a video about tolerances and how important they are, but at BIG KAISER I learned why. For example, one of their customers uses machined parts for airplanes. I thought to myself, "Okay. When I fly, I do not want the parts of that airplane to be ‘just okay’ in how they were machined." BIG KAISER taught me the importance of being patient because they care about getting everything right. You must think about what you're doing and how you're doing it. That's something that I couldn't do in school and it is knowledge that I can take to college or my first place of work.
I don't know how to put into words how much having an internship means to me. Even if you feel like it's not something you would want to do, all I can say is—try. There's a good chance you will end up enjoying it and learning something new at the same time. Core curriculum is fine, but it's a whole new experience when you go outside of it. You might even end up making a new friend or two.
We're Here to Help
It's plain to see how internships can positively affect the next generation, but they can also be a great benefit to manufacturers. Attracting talent results in highly skilled and motivated contributors to the company—and ultimately the industry as a whole.
Did this story inspire you to take on an intern at your company? Reach out to us! We can help.