Jennifer Gongaware

Mechanical engineering seniors Jessica Ulvin and David Guerrant are gaining insight into the military aspect of their major by interning at Edwards Air Force Base this quarter. The base is located on the western edge of the Mojave Desert about 90 miles north of Los Angeles.

This is Ulvin’s second quarter interning at Edwards after she worked over the summer with instrumental design and testing on F-16s. This quarter she is working with armament and smart weaponry.

“The experience is great. I get paid to learn things I’ll need in the future,” Ulvin said.

Guerrant works with liquid-filled rocket engines and is using modern computers to develop physics software to predict the performance of the rockets.

“The reality is, the Air Force actually does a whole lot more than NASA when it comes to rockets,” Guerrant said. “NASA just gets more recognition because they are involved with the glorious projects like the mission to the moon.”

Ulvin and Guerrant both grew up near the base, but for both it was not the reason why they decided to intern there or study mechanical engineering.

“It’s funny because I grew up around the base, was surrounded by it and I didn’t even think of it as a job field,” Ulvin said.

Guerrant comes from a military family, but said he has liked planes and rockets since he was little. Before attending Cal Poly, he said he was not aware of military opportunities within his major.

With two quarters left, Ulvin became aware of internship opportunities at the base after attending a career fair on campus where they looked for summer interns. She found her current position on Mustang Jobs online.

Ulvin works with a variety of people, from Cal Poly students and graduates to civilians and military personnel.

“It’s great because I get to work with people from all over the country, ” Ulvin said. “Also, a lot of civilians from California and aerospace engineers.”

Guerrant said it’s interesting to see some of his peers come to work in their camouflage uniforms and watch the 21-gun salutes honoring those who have fallen in the Middle East conflict.

The security issues have been one of the most prominent differences about working on a military base for Guerrant. He has to wear a color-coded security badge every day, drive through a checkpoint at the front gate and walk past guards carrying M-16 rifles. He can take home documents from his work desk only if he places them in a locked drawer at home.

“The seriousness really hit me in a meeting where there was a big presentation,” Guerrant said. “Half the people had to leave because it was dealing with proprietary information, which is lower level, but still a national security issue.”

Both said Cal Poly’s mechanical engineering program has definitely helped prepare them for their positions at the base.

“It’s a good school and I’m using everything I learned and more,” Guerrant said. “My department is not messing around, they tell you what you need to know.”

For Ulvin it’s not what she learned in her program, but also the program’s reputation that she feels will help her in the mechanical engineering field.

“A lot of senior leadership says very good things about Cal Poly,” Ulvin said. “I’ve gained a lot more confidence knowing I am coming from Cal Poly and knowing it has a good reputation for it’s mechanical engineering program.”

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