Electrical engineering student had real-world introduction to power engineering
Jesse Klein is a junior majoring in electrical engineering with a concentration in power electronics. The graduate of El Capitan High School in Lakeside, California, worked a summer internship at Arizona Public Service (APS) company’s Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station. Here he talks about the internship experience:
Getting the job: At an ASU engineering career fair I talked to an engineer who works for the APS at its Palo Verde plant. He looked at my resume pointed me to someone in the company’s talent acquisition department. That evening a woman from the talent acquisition department called to set up an interview, and asked me to come in the next day and be prepared to use the STAR method of behavioral questions and to prepare a presentation. STAR is Situation, Task, Action, and Result.
It was an hour-long interview with half the time for my presentation, followed by questions and answers. Three months passed before she had a job offer for me.
Besides the long interview and the waiting for their response, I had to get an extensive background check. This process was intense, but I learned a lot about myself because APS contacted all my previous employers and many of my friends, and friends of friends. Then I had a psych exam and a fit-for-duty drug test and a Breathalyzer test.
Finally, after all of that, I got the internship. On the job I actually sat next to the engineer who interviewed me. He said I have solid presentation skills and a genuine passion for what I am learning.
Job duties: I worked in electrical design. My job was to maintain and evaluate the design documents of the plant. I did engineering work requests that involved detective work to find the cause of a problem and fix it.
I was also responsible for the degraded voltage impact calculation. I had to determine if control circuit fuses would break or blow if starters were stalling. I did a lot of safety checks.
I am a certified radiation worker now that I worked at Palo Verde, so I am able to go into radiation areas and do work. Safety checks are part of that work. I also worked with a group to implement a design change to a valve. This valve design change will be used in the actual plant.
Toughest challenge: The toughest part was all the technical knowledge that I was lacking. This was my first internship, so I knew nothing about the industry. Learning all the systems was challenging, and getting used to the acronyms used in the plant was also tough. There are so many acronyms that they have a web page devoted to explaining them.
Best part of the job: The best part was that everything that I worked on made an impact. I learned more than I ever have, and while doing that I left my mark on Palo Verde. Also, working at the largest power generation plant in United States is mind-blowing. For the first month, it felt like I was in a movie. It was surreal.
Lessons learned: I learned how to read schematics, deal with vendors, work in an industrial setting, and I increased my technical knowledge. I learned that safety is a number-one concern in my life now. I want to create a safety culture among my friends and family.
I also learned a valuable lesson about “trust, but verify.” It’s important to believe the person you are dealing with, but you should always make sure for yourself what is correct.
I learned that engineering is more than just making really cool things and solving the world’s problems. We have a responsibility to keep the public out of harm. They put a lot of trust in engineers and it’s our responsibility to keep that trust.
Career aspiration: I can narrow it down to something in the realm of power. But after this experience, I know that I have so many open doors to explore in the power field. I want to explore a new option next summer and see what more I can learn.
Advice to internship seekers: Never stop trying. Apply everywhere you are interested in. Never stop asking questions. This is your big chance to learn things you don’t have time to learn in class, and have fun while you’re doing it.
Joe Kullman, [email protected]
Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering