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Katie Pfeiffer is studying Electrical Engineering at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) and is expecting to graduate in May 2020. She is an intern for the Spectrum Technology Advanced Research Branch at the Naval Surface Warfare Center-Crane Division. Her responsibilities include researching, creating diagrams and user manuals, applying technical skills and coding.

My internship at Crane was one of the best experiences in my entire life – not kidding! Crane is located in the middle of nowhere, but never have I met a community of people that are so kind and hospitable. This creates a positive and inviting work environment that allowed me to be excited to go into work every single day. The people in my group were also willing to challenge me and push me to learn more, work harder, and grow to become a better engineering student.

I worked on a multitude of projects while I was at Crane. I started out by learning how to code in HTML and MATLAB. I coded in HTML to create a user manual for a MATLAB Graphical User Interface being created in my group. Once I had finished that, they assigned me to help them to code part of their Graphical User Interface in MATLAB. I had never coded in MATLAB before in my life, let alone a Graphical User Interface. Learning and coding the Graphical User Interface took the whole summer and by the end I had a completed project. My Graphical User Interface detailed Coplanar Striplines. I had to do a lot of research and reading to figure out what they actually were and how they worked. The interface had three figures detailing the striplines, a place to enter the height, width, thickness, and permittivity of the strips, interactive graphs, and tables with all the calculated outputted data.

I also worked on the Wireless Recon Attack and Test Systems. For this project I got to see it through from start to finish. I came in and they first talked to me about the product and its functions. From the information they gave me and my research, I then was able to construct hardware diagrams and craft an Operations Manual. Towards the end of my internship, we got all of the parts in and I was able to figure out how to put the physical components together and create a finalized project.

My final large project was learning and understanding how to program FPGAs. Since I have had no FPGA programming experience, I was mentored on how to look at the specific manuals that correspond to the FPGA and then how to code them accordingly. I learned about the functions of FPGAs and what some of their capabilities are. For example, data logging and collecting GPS signals was our priority for this project. I got to try coding snippets of the FPGA to get me warmed up and accustom to this type of coding. We then took the data logger programmed and used it on a drone to collect data.

Not only did I take on larger projects, I also got to learn valuable technical skills while working there. I was taught how to solder and how to splice wires. Both being good electrical skills to utilize in my future. Likewise, I was also taught how to use SketchUp to draw and design components to then 3D print. I created two CAD drawings that were used in projects. I created a box to house some circuit boards my group used and I created a holder for a GPS logger that was fitted to a drone.

Looking back at my internship, I can definitely say that I learned a lot. Coming in as only completing freshman year, I was afraid I wasn’t going to be able to help or make a difference. However, I found that even though I came in knowing very little, I left knowing a whole lot. I cannot wait to come back next summer and apply the skills I will learn this year in school to more projects to support the Warfigther.

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Indiana INTERNnet is the catalyst for expanding the creation and use of experiential learning opportunities as a key strategy in retaining Indiana's top talent.
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