Midwest Engineer Mentoring the Next Generation of Engineers

September 15, 2016 | Authors: Josephine Larson and Davis Nguyen

Imagine back to your days in High School. Most of us were probably thinking about studying for that next math exam,or trying to figure out the best way to ask out the girl/guy of your dreams. Or maybe you were just trying to avoid that one guy that would pick on you for being too smart. But, at some point in High School, most of us started to think, “What do I want to be when I grow up.” You could be an astronomer and discover a new solar system. You could be a computer scientist and be the next Elon Musk or Mark Zuckerberg. You could be an engineer and build cool things, maybe you’d create the next revolutionary airplane. But you may have been limited by not really knowing what these people do and what their jobs were like. So you picked a path in college and hoped you’d like it-and that it was, the right career path for you.

Now wouldn’t it have been nice if you’d had access to resources and a mentor to help you decide on your career choice? At Totino-Grace High School in Minneapolis, the school has such a program with one of our fellow Engineers volunteering to mentor the next generation of Engineers.

The High School Experiential Engineering Education (E3) Program at Totino Grace High School introduces students to the field of Engineering through various projects. In addition to these projects, the students have opportunities to take field trips to numerous engineering locations. In-between the student’s junior and senior year, they are asked to shadow their mentors at their workplace sometime in the summer. Two Honeywell Engineering Mentors, Josephine Larson and Jim McDonald, provided this opportunity to seven students in June 2016.

Pictured below: Shawn Przybila, Ian McCormack, Andrew White, Robbie McManus, Jake Huber, Mike Larson, Josephine Larson

Not Pictured: Christine Zielinski

Midwest Engineer Mentoring the Next Generation of Engineers

During their visit, the students received a factory tour of the inertial reference unit area that introducing them to the build and testing of these devices along with seeing the equipment, tools, processes, and people responsible for our units. Following the factory tour, the mentors toured the development & evaluation Lab for the Ground-Based Augmentation System (GBAS) and inertial products. Finally, the students had the opportunity to shadow their mentors and see their day-to-day jobs at their work area in the office.

Throughout the day, the students had the opportunity to ask questions for gaining additional knowledge on how a company such as Honeywell designs, builds, and test products. Andrew White commented, “The tour opened my eyes to the ‘backstage’ action that most people never have a chance to see.”

Mike Larson commented that his experience reinforced his knowledge that Engineers spend a lot of time on testing problems and problem solving. He was surprised on how much goes into making one black box and the large scale of the production process.

Shawn Przybila commented on what he learned that day:

I believe the strongest factor that stuck out to me was the multiple areas of expertise needed into creating the device, rather than just simply being Engineers… Prior to going on the tour, I knew Honeywell worked in the Aerospace field, but I was not entirely sure what they designed and produced. So learning that Honeywell design and creates the navigational boxes for airplanes was new to me. I enjoyed seeing how the process works by first having engineers design the needs for the device and then transferring the designs to the production room where it is then built, tested, and then shipped.

All seven students express their thanks for the opportunity to learn more about what Honeywell Aerospace Coon Rapids does.

In their final year of the E3 Institute, these seniors will take an engineering project from conception to completion – called Capstone Project. They will publicly present their Capstone Project a larger audience. The process will involve conceptualizing, designing, testing, modifying, as well as presenting a functioning product or system. Mike Larson plans to code a GPS unit to send a drone of his creation or store bought and send it on a set route that I choose. “I would like to do this as cheap as possible.” His schedule plan looks as follows:

  • September - I will need about two weeks for research, and then the next two weeks will be the beginning of the fabrication process where I will be doing a lot of brainstorming of the different ways I could go about the project testing various codes, and prototypes
  • October - This will be my fabrication month, where I will be doing a lot of testing and prototyping figuring out what is the best way to go about my project.
  • November - will be a finalizing month where I try to finalize my project, getting the final product to work, and then most likely I will do trials for my final product.
  • December - will be a lot of working finalizing anything that I have not got working if it is not working already. Then I will begin working on my presentation. There will be about two weeks of Christmas break during this time.
  • January - By now my project should be finished, and I have finished conducting my trials. I should also be wrapping up my presentation, and should have practiced a few times for the final presentation of my project.

Christine Zielinski and her partner plan to try to create a more accurate lie detector.

Josephine and Jim, as Mentors for the E3 program, will be asked to help guide the senior students through successful completion of their Capstone Projects.

Mentorship program

Mentors for the E3 program volunteer for a three year term to mentor our future Engineers. To become a mentor, the engineer is required to fill out several forms, go through a background check, and VIRTUS Training (more info at https://www.virtusonline.org/virtus/virtus_description.cfm).

Once the program accepts the mentor, a student is assigned to that mentor. Every two months, the mentor and student would meet to talk about a variety of topics including an engineer’s day-to-day work, challenges and opportunities the engineer is exposed to and even an engineer’s college experience.

“We want them to get a picture of how you make decisions about where to go and what to study,” said Honeywell Engineer, Josephine Larson. “We also want them to get a picture of what their coursework will look like in an engineering program, as well as getting prepared for life after college.”

Josephine Larson shared her experience with mentoring her student, Christine Zielinski:

As an E3 mentor, I enjoy talking on a regular basis to a high school student. Simply chatting about her daily activities, accomplishments, and worries is rewarding. I enjoy congratulating, encouraging, or simply feeling bad with her. Sometimes it is a trip down memory lane, like when she asks about things that are on my resume, for example, education and past work experience. It is interesting to note that not all students involved in the E3 program will become engineers. However, the problem solving skills they learn will always serve them well no matter where life takes them.

To learn more about Totino Grace’s E3 program, go to https://apply.totinograce.org/engineering_institute

Josephine Larson

Josephine Larson

Josephine Larson has been with Honeywell for nearly 30 years and worked on many programs. She is a happy wife and mother of four children; three graduated college and one HS senior, and two grandchildren. Her hobbies include spending time with family, cooking, reading, gardening, boating and trying “new” things. She spends many volunteer hours each month including secretary for the Crooked Lake Area Association, 4H Adult Leader, Bell Choir member, and of course high school E3 mentor.

Davis Nguyen

Davis Nguyen

Davis Nguyen is a Senior Quality Assurance Engineer for Honeywell Aerospace. He is a Certified Software Quality Engineer (CSQE), a Certified Quality Management System Aerospace Auditor, and a FAA Manufacturing Organization Designation Authorization (ODA) Unit Member. In his personal time, Davis enjoys participating in 5K runs, strength training with kettlebells, listening to music, and watching Anime. Davis has been happily married for 8 years to his wife, Kimberly, and has a rat terrier dog named Bella (12 years).