Name: Kevin Johnson
Internship, Co-op or Research Site: Domino Sugar Refinery
Major(s)/Minor(s): Mechanical Engineering
Expected Graduation Year: 2015
Briefly describe your internship, co-op, research, or service- learning opportunity, including your day-to-day tasks, responsibilities, and assignments.
At Domino Sugar I am an intern in the Packaging Department. This is the department responsible for the actually packaging of the sugar after it has been refined. The refinery receives raw sugar from all over the world and then works to create many varieties of pure sugar (well 99.95% pure) that is then sold to consumers. The packaging department consists of over 20 lines that package sugar, with weights that range from the 2.8 gram packets people use for coffee and tea to 2,000 lb supersacks that are sold to large food companies. This summer I am working on many different projects. Some of the larger projects include an audit of the checkweighers on each line (checkweighers are machines that constantly check the weights of the bags or boxes of sugar as they run across the conveyors of the line) and implementing a system that sends this data to a screen that shows graphs and statistics in real time. Another project involves activating a melter tank that is out of operation and connecting it to a larger melter tank 2 floors down. I am also working on designing and implementing a system to reject bad bags of sugar before they reach the unitizers and palletizers provided that they happen to make it past the first set of quality checks. Finally, I am planning and carrying out a project to upgrade a motor in our soft sugar section that has the potential to save the company hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. These are just some of the interesting projects I get to work on every day I come into work. In addition to all this work I get to learn about the world of manufacturing from my extremely knowledgeable coworkers and supervisors.
What have you enjoyed the most about your position or organization/company?
I have enjoyed the opportunity to get a glimpse into the world of manufacturing and how engineering is related to this field. I have interned at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center before, and this internship is very different in many ways so it has been a great way to broaden my engineering experience. Being able to work with experienced engineers and learn directly from them has been such a valuable experience. It really demonstrates how what you learn in class relates to real world problems and solutions. Everyone who works here has been extremely kind and helpful, which has made the learning experience even more valuable.
What have you gained from your experience that you could not have gained from another opportunity?
Like I said before, I have interned at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center before and this internship at Domino Sugar has been very different. The manufacturing process of a privately owned company is much different than working at a government run agency. The knowledge I have gained here has been from a different view of engineering, which has been great for expanding my view of engineering as a whole. I would not say I have learned a lot of things here I could not have gained from another opportunity. I would say it is helpful to gain multiple views of what an engineering degree can lead to in the workforce. And I have definitely gained an appreciation of that from this internship in comparison to my other one.
What advice would you give to another student who is seeking an internship or similar experience?
I would say do not give up and apply to everything you qualify for. It is not easy to get an internship, especially in this turbulent job market with so many experienced students applying from all over the country. I would also suggest branching out of their comfort zone to gain an appreciation for all there is to learn and experience. It is important to experience a variety of experiences before entering the job market as a new graduate. This will allow you to really narrow down your future plans to what you definitely know you're passionate about.
How do you see your experience as meaningful? This might involve skills you’ve gained, information you’ve learned, mentors you’ve connected with, or projects you’ve completed.
This internship has been great for gaining real world experience. It is a great indicator of how to relate what you learn in class to real world problems and solutions. The projects I work on really challenge me to think outside of the box to devise creative and effective solutions. I am able to work on something new every day, and I also have the unique opportunity to work with a wide array of people. This allows me to network with many different individuals who have given me valuable information and connections for the future.
Please provide a short quote about what you liked most about your position / earning internship credit / the internship placement process / the Shriver Center:
I would like to wrap up by saying this internship has been a priceless experience that has really allowed me to branch out and learn more about different areas of engineering, especially manufacturing and industry. I would also like to thank the Shriver Center for helping me obtain this opportunity and my supervisor at Domino Sugar, Rush Yelverton (head of Packaging Department), for hiring me and teaching me more than I thought I could ever know about sugar and the manufacturing process.