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UA engineering students spend 12 weeks working at Tesla

About 100 students from around the country interned during the summer of 2018 at Tesla’s Gigafactory 1 in Reno, Nevada, including UA student Jordan Olson.

Several University of Alabama College of Engineering students got the opportunity to apply classroom lessons into real world practice by interning for an innovative automotive and energy company making major headlines.

The UA engineering students spent their summer working with Tesla automotive company at factories in both California and Nevada. Matthew Keegans, junior mechanical engineering major from Wayzata, Minnesota, was one of the students that spent his summer participating in the company’s 12-week internship program.

“I wanted to intern at Tesla because I have always had a passion for the automotive industry and tech,” Keegans said. “Another reason I wanted to intern at Tesla was because of the exciting time in the company’s history; a time Elon [Musk, co-founder and CEO] described as ‘production hell.’ Tesla offered a new and challenging experience that pushed me to take on problems more difficult than I previously had worked on in other internships.”

Keegans worked at the Tesla Factory in Fremont, California, as a quality engineering intern. During his time with the company, Keegans worked on a quality gate project to decrease the feedback loop for quality issues, which resulted in a decreased amount of man-hours per vehicle. Additionally, he worked on a project to streamline quality across all business segments including production, delivery and service.

“I learned many technical skills in the field of quality engineering,” Keegans said. “However, the most valuable thing I learned at Tesla is that anything really is possible; it’s not a matter of if something is able to be accomplished but how.”

Marshall Williams, senior mechanical engineering major from Kansas City, Missouri, spent his summer at the Tesla factory in Silicon Valley working in powertrain manufacturing engineering.

Marshall Williams, senior mechanical engineering major from Kansas City, Missouri, also spent his summer at the Tesla factory in Silicon Valley working in powertrain manufacturing engineering.

“Tesla has been one of my favorite companies since early high school. I always loved their mission and the products and services they provided,” Williams said. “I believe they are truly changing the world with the work. I came into a position where I could leverage my experience to work there and was very grateful.”

As a powertrain manufacturing engineer, Williams worked on creating the motor, battery, inverter and other components to power the car. Specifically, Williams worked on creating the battery modules and battery packs for the Model S and Model X vehicles.

“The largest takeaway was functioning in the environment which Tesla has. Working in such a dynamic company, which was constantly in the media, not to mention located in Silicon Valley, was an experience in its own,” Williams said. “Everything was fast paced – with deadlines and goals constantly changing. All employees were focused on the goal of the company and did whatever they could to make it happen.”

Jordan Olson, senior mechanical engineering major from Galesburg, Illinois, was also a participant in the Tesla summer internship program. He was located at the Gigafactory 1 in Reno, Nevada.

The Tesla interns attended information sessions and speaker series during the 12-week internship program last summer. The vice president of operations once gave advice to students going into the industry.

“I wanted to intern for Tesla because I feel like it’s a company that really embodies what I want out of a career – work that is challenging and rewarding,” Olson said. “I believe that our key to the future as a society is sustainability, and Tesla is actively seeking effective and innovative solutions.”

During his time with Tesla, Olson worked on the Facilities Projects team as a project manager. In his role, Olson managed both long-term and short-term projects through request, design, planning and construction.

Olson’s daily tasks included meeting with Tesla engineers and managers, gathering design input from technicians, coordinating with engineers, getting approval for designs, scheduling constriction, gaining necessary approvals and system outages, and being a main point of contact for all involved during the construction.

“This past summer was truly an eye-opening experience for me,” Olson said. “For one it reaffirmed my commitment to working in industries that promote sustainability and innovation. It also allowed me to gain new perspective, not just through the engineering marvels I worked around on a daily basis but through the incredible people I met as well. I think moving forward this perspective will prove to benefit me even more than all the technical skills I learned.”

In 1837, The University of Alabama became one of the first five universities in the nation to offer engineering classes. Today, UA’s College of Engineering has more than 5,800 students and more than 130 faculty. In recent years, students in the College have been named USA Today All-USA College Academic Team members, Goldwater, Hollings, Portz, Boren, Mitchell and Truman scholars.