Engineering students get hands-on learning with a paycheck

Student Experience

Julie Cooper | March 24, 2022

Co-ops4Cats program puts this trio of Bobcats to work on industrial engines, server chips, and concrete construction

For Texas State University engineering students, learning doesn’t just take place in the lecture halls or labs. Undergraduates can gain real-world experience alongside industry leaders, while earning a paycheck and working toward graduation.

Cooperative education is an experiential educational model in which students in the Ingram School of Engineering alternate semesters of traditional academic education with semesters of working full-time in their field of study. 

The Co-ops4Cats Program began in 2017 under the direction of Michelle Londa, Ph.D., cooperative education coordinator and industrial engineering senior design coordinator. 

“I am passionate about our Co-ops4Cats Program, which is proving valuable to our students — many of whom are first generation — to earn a significant salary, gain valuable experience, and to become full-time engineers who will help fulfill the requirements of the Texas Innovation Corridor.”  
Among the employers participating this semester are Amazon, Miracle Grow, Los  Alamos National Laboratory, Cummins, Granite Construction, Austin Energy, TC Energy and Advanced Micro Devices. The average co-op salary this semester is $28 an hour.

Here are three current engineering students who shared their co-op experience.

Kate Padron

Kate Padron

Granite Construction  

What is your co-op job with Granite?
I acted as an engineering intern and assisted field engineers with quality control and material tracking. Granite was sub-contracted to build the foundation for a mass concrete structure in compliance with Nuclear Quality Assurance standards. The project was very rigorous and a great learning experience. I was a part of an amazing team and was able to see several aspects of the construction project. 

How has the program impacted you?
This opportunity has allowed me to travel out of state and grow.  I have learned what it means to be a part of a team that functions as a cohesive unit. I have gained more confidence in my work, improved my communication skills, and created a name for myself in the industry. It allowed me to see the real-world applications of my major as well as boosting my motivation toward my studies and career goals.

What are your hopes and dreams for your future career?
I dream of obtaining my PE (professional engineer) license and becoming a project manager who works for a company where I am challenged. 

Carlie Campos

Carlie Campos

Cummins Inc.

What is your co-op job?
I work with the Customer Integration branch of the Power Services Business Unit over a six-month co-op. My team is a multidisciplinary problem-solving group tasked with creating solutions to issues involving customer applications of Cummins industrial engines, ranging from 38L to 95L. 

I was involved with two projects to improve the accuracy of Cummins fuel consumption calculations. My first project was creating the framework for a market-independent total cost of ownership tool that would replace the existing tools to improve and standardize the reports provided to customers. I analyzed several tools to simplify the algorithms and created a demo user interface in Python. My second project was collaboration on a high-accuracy fuel consumption measurement device for use in the field. I tested electronics for signal error, used machine learning to evaluate error from field tests, and configured and integrated a Modbus to CAN protocol converter to eliminate analog signals. 

How has it impacted you?
This experience gave me confidence in my abilities and gave me the chance to explore different roles in the electrical engineering field. I was encouraged to network and find the team that I thought would be the best fit for myself. I gained several incredible mentors as well who I will always be grateful for. The co-op gave me a chance to participate in a more in-depth learning experience. I was able to participate in class discussions with a better understanding of the real-world applications of the theory. It improved my problem-solving abilities to see how engineers in the field approach complex problems.  

What are your hopes and dreams for your future career?
I am excited to be joining Cummins after graduation. I am currently coaching a FIRST robotics team and plan to continue coaching teams throughout my career. I dream of moving into project management and establishing a startup to participate in both the design and business aspects of creating consumer electronics.

McKay De La Vega

McKay De La Vega

Advanced Micro Devices (AMD)

What is your job with AMD?
My experience with AMD was as a pre and post silicon design co-op. During my time with the company, my team worked on the next generation of AMD server chips. 

How has it impacted you?
This experience brought me insight into the semiconductor industry and taught me about what I could do as a career. This co-op, along with my undergraduate research with Dr. Damien Valles,  has provided valuable industry experiences that have propelled my career. I have learned many valuable industry skills and met  many cool people.  I have received future co-op offers with some of my dream companies. 

What are your hopes and dreams for your future career?
My hope in the future is to work with an amazing company that makes computer hardware or software. Thanks to the co-op program and Dr. Londa’s guidance, I now have the confidence to go make that happen.

For more information, contact University Communications:

Jayme Blaschke, 512-245-2555

Sandy Pantlik, 512-245-2922