The transition from second to third year was very continuous, as I did not really register much summer at all. I spent the first ten weeks of the long vacation doing an engineering internship not only to satisfy my university requirement, but also to gain valuable experience working with professionals in the aerospace field. Therefore I thought it would be good to make this the main topic for this “summer” article.

The Engineering Department at the University of Cambridge requires their students to undergo at least six weeks of industry placement within their first three years of study. The specification allows a wide range of possibilities for the students, so they can do manual engineering jobs as well as design jobs in an office, as long as it has some connection to engineering. The students have to pick the field and the company for their internship themselves, but the university provides support to them with both finding a job they would really like and preparing for the internship selection process (as prestigious internship spots will have many candidates for them).

Although I would have technically satisfied the university requirement with a job I did before my first year (working as a support mechanic at a Slovak light aircraft construction company), I thought it was really important to gain a new, perhaps a bit more brain demanding, experience. I was looking for an internship offer related with aircraft industry, so I was writing to various aircraft or engine construction companies and also to some airlines who took some interns from University of Cambridge before. I have to admit there were some dissapointments during the process. Some of the companies had to reject me because they operated in a defence sector for which they required a citizenship of the country they worked in. For some others it turned out I did not have the necessary qualification or language knowledge, and there were some (mainly Czech of course) companies that could not be bothered to at least give an answer. But I did get some very interesting offers, and picking between them prooved to be quite a task itself.

At the end, I chose an offer from a company called Safran Aircelle, which is a French company constructing and supplying nacelles for engines to Airbus, Embraer, Bombardier and numerous other aircraft manufacturers. Although the company is French, it has construction and engineering support centres in many countries, and I worked at their British location in Burnley, near Manchester. I was assigned to the repairs team, and was given a project lasting for the 10 weeks.  I was co-operating on the project with a professional engineer who turned to be my part-time tutor. The project was a proof of concept work to automate the assesment of damages and necessary repairs. It was meant to show that by using a system of VBA macros, Excel calculation spreadsheets and material FEM maps transformed into Excel tables, it is possible to automatically recalculate the stresses in the different elements of the structure after a damage has occurred. This would save the repair engineers many hours of work, as previously they had to manually go through every single calculation spreadsheet and manually find data in the structure drawings. The proof of concept work was done on the Inner Fixed Structure of a Trent 700 thrust reverser (which, for those who are not aircraft enthusiasts, is a part of an Airbus A330 engine). In the end, it was doing the job that it was supposed to do, but there is now a long sequence of validation steps for qualified workers to go through before it can be allowed for actual use.

I am very thankful for the opportunity to work on something that really has enhanced my knowledge and skills, and I was impressed that this also seemed to be the primary target for my tutor and the rest of the team. There was no pressure or stress on me, they allowed me to spend time learning about the structures and the repair processes as well as learning some more advanced VBA programming when I thought it would be useful for the project.

The only negative for me was that I had to spend the summer away from home and friends in what, let me be honest, is not really a lovely English town. It appears that most of English people moved to the countryside or to Manchester. There is some architectural evidence of British industrial presence in the past, but nowadays the city´s ethnic composition and cleanness looks more like in Pakistan. The countryside around is however really nice, and there is also a proximity of large cities such as Manchester or Liverpool. Lake District is also within reach. It is a good location for cycling trips. But there is really nothing about Burnley as a town itself that would make it attractive, which is probably a reason why most of the employees of the company live outside Burnley.

This also makes for a reason why I am now excited to get back from the reality of the north of England back to the calm, tidy and in every single way stunning  city of Cambridge. 



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