How UC’s co-op program shaped my career

The co-op program at UC was the biggest reason why I decided to become a Bearcat and here's why

Headshot of By: Jacob Rieman

By: Jacob Rieman

Mechanical engineering, '22

Co-op: United Launch Alliance, system test engineering intern

When I was deciding which university to attend, the co-op program at UC was the biggest reason why I decided to become a Bearcat. I came to UC thinking I would want to work in prosthetics after graduation, combining my interest of biomechanics with engineering. But I still wanted to explore my options.

I sampled several different industries to test out what I liked

Through co-op, I’ve worked in medical device design, automotive production and the space launch industry. Being able to essentially sample these branches of engineering while learning the technical aspects of being an engineer allowed me to narrow down my interests to know where I want my career to go.

NASA launcher at night

I learned the fast-paced world of high-output production isn't for me

My time in automotive production quickly showed me that, while fascinating, the fast-paced world of high-output production isn’t for me. 

My co-op experience was a rare opportunity not many get to experience

This summer, I’ve been co-oping in Cape Canaveral, Florida, for United Launch Alliance (ULA). ULA is a launch service originally created as a joint venture by Boeing and Lockheed Martin back in 2006. 

NASA launcher

The cape Canaveral location is home to the launch ops division, where we launch both the Atlas V and Delta IV rockets. For my co-op, I’m working in the delta mechanical group, which handles most of the transports and facility adaptations for whatever vehicles and payloads we are getting ready to launch. The most interesting launch we have this summer is the Starliner launch we are doing for Boeing. 

The Boeing Starliner Capsule is part of a NASA contract to get American astronauts back to space from the cape. The launch we have scheduled for July 30th is what we are calling the OTF-2 launch, standing for ‘orbital flight test 2’ which will be the last test flight before CFT-1 (Crewed Flight Test 1) that launches later this year. Because of this, there’s been a lot of publicity, but also a lot of awesome opportunities. Along with this, I was able to be on the team for transporting the Starliner capsule from the Boeing facility to where we stack the launch vehicle. 

I now know that working space launch industry is where I want to be

After reflecting upon this past summer at ULA, I now know that working in the space launch industry gives me a certain satisfaction as an engineer that is incredibly difficult to put into words. Having the ability to be up close and personal with cutting-edge technology and launching state-of-the-art satellites or astronauts to space, is a job perk that not many engineers get the chance to experience. Opportunities like these are one of the biggest ways the co-op program has impacted my engineering experience—and my future career.

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