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E-news Online January 2013


Rolls-Royce Internships Provide International Experiences and Life Lessons

By Nicholas Doolittle (CE ’15)

A partnership with Rolls-Royce made it possible for two U.Va. Engineering School students to spend the summer in England, as part of a Rolls-Royce internship program.

To be selected for the program, the students had to meet the following criteria set by the company: a strong academic record, aptitude for an advanced technology industry, work experience, good communications skills, broad thinking and the ability to positively influence others.

Rebecca Fielding, a fourth-year mechanical engineer, worked with the Rolls-Royce repair technology group. The main focus of her activities was on organizing, analyzing and reformatting information on repair capabilities for the future, dividing data into categories and consulting experts to determine the feasibility, potential cost and time scale for suggested repair ideas. She also worked with others in compressor blade erosion research and in research on laser technology repair, and she had the opportunity to do research on composite materials used in aero engines.

Stuart Diller, a fourth-year mechanical engineer, spent his time with Rolls-Royce assembling comprehensive investment and process improvement strategies, including analysis of load, capacity and business continuity. He presented his findings and collected internal stakeholder input during two process improvement workshops. Also, he spent time investigating and applying design assumptions related to the novel shaft forging process designed to increase material utilization two- or threefold. On this project, Diller acted as a point-of-contact to a forging machine manufacturer and led several meetings with machine manufacturer representatives. Diller also created a Target Tracker spreadsheet used to monitor cost, weight and time improvements achieved by development projects.

Carole Thomas, who supervised Diller during the internship, acknowledges shared benefits of the program. “I greatly welcome the opportunity of working with international trainees as I find it can be mutually enriching for all involved,” she said. “It gives the trainee the opportunity to expand their technical knowledge and to understand how to become a professional employee, and it gives the trainer the opportunity to work with someone of a high caliber and great level of commitment.”

Both students value the experience they had with Rolls-Royce. Diller appreciates the diversity of his team, while Fielding praises the friendliness of hers, saying, “They made me feel welcome and comfortable in an environment that was different than what I was used to, and in the process I learned a lot.” Both students enjoyed the international experiences they had and the opportunity to work with professionals and students. “You learn so much actually being on site with people who are working at a high level in a professional environment. I feel that this experience helped me understand how research and manufacturing works in an international setting,” said Diller.

Beyond actively participating in manufacturing and business operations, both students came away with clear ideas about how to get the most out of internships. They recommend that students communicate what they want to learn from the experience to their supervisors and that they immerse themselves in the culture around them. “An international experience shouldn’t be thought of as too hard or too far away. It should be thought of as an incredible and worthwhile opportunity,” said Fielding.

The Rolls-Royce partnership began in 2007 when the company announced plans to build a new jet engine manufacturing plant at Crosspointe, in Prince George County, Va., and invited the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, Virginia State University and the Virginia Community College System to join in an innovative partnership.

The partnership includes creation of two major research centers; support for faculty, students, workforce development initiatives and research; and manufacturing training.

In support of the partnership, the Commonwealth of Virginia agreed to provide funds over a five-year period beginning in July 2009 to support chaired professorships, endowed graduate fellowships, endowed internships and lab renovations.

The first of three plants at Crosspointe Center was completed in early 2011. The Commonwealth Center for Aerospace Propulsion Systems (CCAPS), managed by U.Va. mechanical engineering professor Harsha Chelliah and Virginia Tech mechanical engineering professor Srinath Ekkad, has generated over $2 million in research funding from Rolls-Royce, the Commonwealth and federal grants. The Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing (CCAM) has 14 industrial members and three university members with research in surface engineering and manufacturing systems. It has been operating for more than two years and the facility had a members opening early in October and will have a grand opening in February 2013.

The partnership has made it possible for the Engineering School to hire five new faculty members: Eric Loth, Beth Opila, Patrick Hopkins, Haibo Dong and Gary Koenig. It has also made possible creation of the Rapid-Prototyping Laboratory that includes student collaborative design space as well as numerous 3-D printers and computer numerical controller machines and expansion of the Mechatronics Lab.

“The partnership with Rolls-Royce is indicative of what is possible when industry and academia work together to further academic and research enterprises,” said Dean James H. Aylor. “This partnership has transformed many aspects of our program.”