Engineering Internships - the wave of the future
The Engineering Visiting Committee of the Board of Fellows has been aggressively pursuing a formalized internship program for engineering students at Norwich University. As such, they are reaching out to alumni who have summer intern positions that could be filled by Norwich students. The following article illustrates the tremendous value the internship experience holds not only for Norwich students, but for the companies they intern with.
Toward the end of his junior year, Krenar Komoni '06 began applying to different engineering companies for summer internship opportunities. As a computer engineering major, his applications were mostly directed at companies involved in designing and setting-up Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) and Distributed Control Systems (DCS).
"These two areas of interest were a priority for me because of the National Security Agency (NSA) funded research project I participated in for two consecutive summers with Professor Ronald A. Lessard," said Komoni.
As the spring semester neared its end, Komoni, a double major in computer engineering and mathematics, began thinking more seriously about his decision, trying to figure out which company he should work for. Enter Geoff Dawe, a 1984 Norwich graduate. Dawe returned to his alma mater to interview some computer/electrical engineering students for summer internship opportunities at his company, BitWave Semiconductor, Inc.
"A few days after the interviews he got back to us with an answer, and I learned that one other student and I had both been selected to work for BitWave," Komoni said.
While at BitWave, Komoni did not expect to actually get his hands on a real engineering problem or participate in the development process of a cell-phone chip, but it turned out he was quite wrong.
"BitWave quickly trained me on Agilent Advanced Design System (ADS) software, which I used to simulate radio frequency (RF) systems that BitWave had designed," Komoni said. Using these simulations, Komoni was able to measure error vector magnitude (EVM), bit-error rate (BER), and frame-error rate (FER), to determine if the BitWave system met certain specifications for different cell-phone transmitter and receiver standards, such as GSM, CDMA2K, etc.
"Understanding and appreciating RF and cell-phone advancements, and working with cutting-edge technology alongside very intelligent co-workers was a phenomenal experience for me," Komoni added.
Komoni wasn't the only one who was pleasantly surprised. Dawe, Chief Technology Officer of the start-up company, had had previous experience with graduate students from prestigious schools such as M.I.T., and wasn't expecting much from someone who didn't even have his bachelor's degree.
"When I talked to Professor [Dennis] Tyner about hiring a Norwich student, I was doing it as a way to stay connected with the University, not thinking I would get any useful work out of it," said Dawe. He, too, couldn't have been more wrong.
"By the end of the summer, Krenar had become so valuable to the company that we had to hire a Ph.D. with six years experience in the field of communications theory just to continue the work he had started," Dawe said.
Dr. Tyner, who recommended Komoni for the BitWave internship, talked about the win-win relationship that the engineering internship program provides.
"By the end of the summer, Krenar had become so valuable to the company that we had to hire a Ph.D. with six years experience ... just to continue the work he had started."
"For students, internships help to broaden their education and excite them about the profession that they have chosen to study. But the benefits aren't only realized by the students. After they graduate from college, a large number of interns actually end up being hired by the company that provided them the internship. These companies don't have to rely on trying to figure out whether or not an applicant might be a good fit for them, because they've already had the opportunity to evaluate them in action," Tyner said.
Another avenue whereby Norwich alumni are able to support Norwich students is through the sponsorship of student-conducted research. Last year, Dawe's company donated $10,000 to help underwrite the cost of purchasing software and parts for three senior engineering independent projects. According to Paul Bova '88, Senior Gift Officer in the Office of Institutional Advancement, restricted gifts such as these are critical to the overall success of the engineering program at Norwich.
"Like internships, these funds allow our students to receive real hands-on experience that they cannot receive in the classroom, giving them a competitive edge when it comes to applying to graduate schools or entering the workforce," Bova said.
In the fall semester, when Komoni asked if he could come back to work at BitWave over Winter Break, Dawe did not hesitate.
"In fact, we would love to have him here full-time," Dawe declared in a recent phone interview. BitWave Semiconductor may have to wait another year or two, however, before bringing Komoni on board permanently. Ever since his internship, the senior has been considering pursuing a Master's in Electrical Engineering.
"The encouragement and drive to continue my education came while I was working at BitWave, where I met many professors who currently teach in some of the most prestigious graduate schools in the country," Komoni said.
Komoni was emphatic that a numerical value can't be placed on the benefits he received from his internship.
"Taking responsibility, seeing the impact of my work, and being part of an innovative company like BitWave is ... priceless, and has helped prepare me for the next step as an engineer," Komoni said.
Komoni is the son of Burbuqe Rushiti and Mustafa Komoni of Prishtina, Kosovo. His brother, Rinor, is a junior Architecture student at Norwich.
About BitWave Semiconductor
BitWave Semiconductor, Inc. is a fabless semiconductor company located in Lowell, Mass. Co-founded in 2003 by Norwich graduate Geoff Dawe '84, the company is developing the next generation of universal radio chips for cell phones and PDAs using software defined radio techniques. In November, BitWave announced that it had created software defined transceiver technology in a single CMOS RFIC chip designed to let cell phone, laptop and other mobile device users communicate across a variety of networks. Once implemented, "Softransceiver," will eventually reduce the cost and enhance the functionality of today's cell phones by providing universal capability in connecting to any wireless network. The chip is scheduled to be released this summer for customer sampling and testing.
It is not too early to be thinking about hiring a summer intern. In 2005, the first year of our program, 28 engineering students had successful summer internships. Our alumni are our best source for opportunities. If you are interested in hiring an intern, or would just like to be kept informed about our 2006 program, please contact Ed Verock ’65 at email@example.com.