LIFT Internship Success Stories
The best internships are beneficial to both the student and the company. Electrical engineering major Eric Hawkins had such an experience as an intern with Elkhart’s American Technology Components through the LIFT Initiative Internship Program.
Funded via the Labs for Industry Futures and Transformation (LIFT) Initiative grant, the LIFT Initiative’s Internship Program brings together students from regional colleges and universities to internships at local companies focused on advanced industries such as technology, manufacturing, data science and analytics, supply chain or logistics management, and research and development. The program subsidizes half of the wages of up to two approved internship positions for each employer partner, reimbursing up to $2,500 per intern.
Currently in his junior year at the University of Notre Dame, Eric participated in the LIFT program during the summer of 2022. He had the opportunity to work alongside experienced engineers at American Technology Components, or ATC, during his time there. The company manufactures custom-designed electronic and plastic components for the RV and marine industries. One of his tasks was to design a circuit board – also called printed circuit boards or PCBs – that he was able to carry through to the manufacturing process.
“I was able to design it, we then shipped out the design specs to a company overseas and they would create the physical circuit board itself without any components on top,” Eric said. “I then had the opportunity to hand-solder all the components onto it and create the working board – which is awesome. One of the boards I produced, that board design will be used at the company. They’ll be using it, hopefully, for many years to come.”
Eric first learned about the LIFT Intern Program from a friend also in the electrical engineering program. She had interned at ATC the previous year and recommended the program and company to him. He liked the simplicity of the LIFT portal, saying it was easy to use and helpful in learning about each company as he was deciding where to apply.
“Look around at all the different options that they have,” he said. “There are definitely a bunch of options that will fit. They had a bunch of options just for electrical engineering majors like myself. The LIFT Internship Program is not limited to what type of engineering they provide, and even beyond engineering. Definitely explore the different options.”
The New Jersey native also enjoyed the opportunity to spend time with other interns in the program. He attended races at the South Bend Motor Speedway with the group – the loudest thing he’s heard in his life, he said – as well as spent an afternoon at a South Bend Cubs baseball game.
“LIFT is not only connecting you to companies; it’s also bringing interns together in the South Bend – Elkhart area,” Eric said. “Take advantage of those events that they run. For me, this was the first time I had an eight-hour workday. How do you balance your time between being in your internship, and spending time outside of that? I think LIFT provides events to show you can manage your time between your work and life.”
Eric got to know the other interns in the program. He found many of the interns, like him, were new to the region, so the opportunity to attend attractions and activities in the area was appreciated. It also gave him a window into other businesses participating in the program.
“At the end of the year, we made presentations. Seeing what all the different people worked on, it was just like ‘Wow. I haven’t even thought about that. I didn’t even know that was a thing,’” he said. “So, it was pretty cool to see all these different experiences people got to have that were unique to each of us.”
Eric designed another PCB during his time at ATC. The second board was used to test other boards, making sure they could handle the high current load needed for motors running in various RV components. This variety of projects helped him gain a better understanding of different parameters and priorities necessary to different types of boards.
“I really enjoyed being productive and being able to be at a company where they don’t just give you busy stuff,” said Eric. “They give you actual work. Designing a board was really cool. The combination of both having independence to learn those skills, but also having someone you could look up to and teach you those things was really valuable. I felt like my time was valued. I felt like my participation was valued. I was doing something that was meaningful. To have a summer internship that was both a learning experience and that I made an impact on the company was really awesome.”