After graduating from the University of Strathclyde in June, I was faced with my last summer of freedom before a world of full-time work. Rather than enjoying the leisurely pursuits that typically follow 5 years of intense studying, I opted to take on the challenge of an internship with Gibson Robotics. My motivation was simple; the opportunity to put skills to the test on tangible, interesting and challenging problems was too good to pass up.
My university project experience had offered the design of race car aerodynamic components, gas turbine engines, and aircraft propeller blades, but I still felt something was missing. My interests lay in Aerospace and Defence, and I sought involvement with the future of the emerging and rapidly evolving Uncrewed Aerial Systems industry. I had never bought, built, or even flown a commercial UAS before – but getting dropped (or rather jumping) into the deep-end was part of the fun.
The variety of hats I wore were within the realms of requirements engineering, systems architecture design, subsystem prototyping, proposal writing, industry analysis, product demonstration animation and more. Every day was different, and I was able to take advantage of the dynamic nature of ‘start-up life’ to take initiative, ensuring I was able to develop a breadth of skills, as well as depth.
As my primary project, I lead the first principles design of a novel UAS platform from the ground up, employing a quality function deployment process to synthesise customer needs into a technical specification and drivers for the design philosophy.
From defining the high-level concept, to iterating on propulsion configurations using industry standard design tools, all the way to detailed component down-selection and critical reviews with the team, the project was a fantastic introduction into an agile design and prototyping cycle in a unique environment. Rapidly prototyping and assembling one of the subsystem concepts was also a highlight - taking an idea from a sketch on paper to a functional demonstrator within a short space of time is an experience that I know I won’t get at a big engineering firm.
Around halfway through the internship, we saw an opportunity for some of the work I had led with the novel platform to pivot into subsystem integration for a different market segment – aligning with a competition call from a customer. After I pitched the idea to the team, we deliberated and ensured that commitment to the project would align to the company vision and resources, then agreed to progress with devising a project plan and proposal to the competition call. It was extremely rewarding to have played such a key role in identifying and driving this potential new workstream, and to see the value that the team placed in my opinion.
Throughout my time at the company the moments I have enjoyed the most were the ad-hoc collaborative problem-solving sessions we ended up hosting; either huddled around a sketch or a part, or up drawing at a whiteboard. Being able to bounce ideas around the team, approaching a problem in different ways and agreeing on an optimal course of action is what I love about being an engineer. There was no shortage of this at Gibson Robotics!
I thoroughly enjoyed spinning such a wide variety of plates during my internship, contributing to the aims of the company, and soaking up each opportunity to develop my skills. Now with the summer coming to an end, I know that this experience will remain with me and serve me well throughout my career as I progress into a graduate scheme and beyond.