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What is an intern supposed to do?

  1. Jan 15, 2009 #1
    I have been going to a power plant for over a month now. The Engineering Admin there allotted days for us for different departments. 2 weeks for boiler, 1 week for turbine section, 1 week for coal handling, a week for auxiliary units(air compressors, pumps, water treatment, ash handling etc), a week for water treatment(other than auxiliary), a week each for control & material management. So far i have been going to the divisional heads of allotted department. There he would tell us the theory part, which I have already studied(it takes about an hour), then he sends us with a foreman(or sometimes an engineer) to visit the site.

    Then its like a joy ride. I must admit that things are pretty amazing there, for example a wagon tripper, the wagon is completely turned over to empty the coal(although inefficient, but its awesome), and the water treatment plant, it has a large cylindrical tank to store untreated water(about 20m in dia), & has a bridge which continuously rotates about the tank's axis, the bridge supports the scrapper & the stirrers etc etc..

    But it is being more like a picnic tour. I am not really learning anything new. As the project, a report describing the whole plant is to be made, which is super stupid. Is it the way it is supposed to happen or can I do something more? Has anyone been to a power plant as an intern?

    In my last intern, I was at an aircraft accessory overhauling shop for A320s, where we studied almost all of the system, we repaired few things ourselves(eg a brake assembly, few pumps, PTUs), we even installed a landing gear assembly(:mad:though we were not allowed to go to the main hanger, but anyways it was tooooo fun), we tested few units etc etc. In short, I actually learned alot in my last training & I am already bored of this one & i have a month left :cry:
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 15, 2009 #2
    My intern experience has been very different from yours. My internships were more like jobs rather than just tours or "this is how you do this". Myself and other interns carried a lot of responsibility and in many cases treated like the engineers and technicians. If I were you, I would just stick it out. You only have a month left and as long as your getting paid then I wouldn't complain to much.
  4. Jan 15, 2009 #3


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    What year are you in? I found that the level of trust and amount of work increased quite a bit between 3rd and 5th years. A friend of mine worked at a nuclear plant here in Ohio (the infamous Davis-Besse) and he had even less workload than you. He said that he spent the first two hours of the day doing the NY Times crossword.
  5. Jan 15, 2009 #4
    this is my second internship. They say things are too risky there, they cant trust the interns to do the job. Its sort of a luck thing, if unfortunately something goes wrong, we(fortunately) get to go to the site & help in solving the problem. For example, water pipe leading to the water filter hopper beneath the furnace, choked, we went there with the site engineers & suggested solutions, pipe flange was tooo rusty, finally it was sheared off using a gas torch & new one was installed. the next time, an economizer coil leaked, so the entire unit was shut down & we went there, but we couldn't stay because it was over 5 then. It is one off sort of a thing.
    So far things are going quiet smooth there, & we are killing time:zzz:
  6. Jan 16, 2009 #5


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    In the situation you're in, the onus is on you to learn what you can. There is only so much an employer can do with you. They can't put you on any long term projects (where the real learning is) and they can't just throw you to the dogs.

    IMO, I think an intern should be assigned to a higher level engineer who basically allows them to follow them through their days and passes off some of their work load that is applicable and doable. Of course, every company is different.

    There should be nothing preventing you from asking questions and looking into all of the groups involved. If anything, you get the experience of how another company works and what their engineers experience. That is valuable even if it is not technical knowledge.
  7. Jan 16, 2009 #6
    hmm so i guess we are on the right path:shy:
  8. Jan 16, 2009 #7
    If there's nothing else to do, see if they'll allow you to wander around in the plant by yourself. Take a system drawing (a P&ID) and try to follow the piping around. Look at the valves and stuff. You'd be surprised by how many engineers there are working on things that he've never seen. If you have the opportunity to just see the equipment it is worthwhile in the long run.

    I mostly work in an office environment now, and our interns get stuck with some real crap for work - tedious crap. You should consider yourself lucky to be in an operating plant.
  9. Jan 16, 2009 #8


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    Agreed gmax. If you can't find anything, take initiative. Let me be clear: employers value nearly nothing more than initiative. Start a weekly project monitoring something. Do analysis on things, that even though might be unnecessary. It shows that you're trying to learn, which is what you're there to do.
  10. Jan 17, 2009 #9
    :!!)i love those bigggg control valves, they actually need a geared drive to operate, & the bolt heads were actually bigger than my hand:bugeye:.

    I went to the top to see the boiler drum(52 meters), it was real scary(i have slight vertigo)

    Nowadays we are roaming around & asking engineers/foreman for details.
  11. Jan 18, 2009 #10
    that's it ank_gl -- think of it like this - they're letting you into the plant! If you had just pulled up to the front gate and asked to look around they would have sent you packing. But for the summer, they gave you a badge instead! See if it's OK to take pictures. You're seeing stuff and going places denied to most people (top of the boiler). I once had to do some work inside the main condenser - a weird place to be, with the turbine blades above and the tube bundle below. Not many people have been in there. And yes the unit was shutdown...
  12. Jan 29, 2009 #11
    It sounds like your uni guys, let out into the big bad world to have a look.
    My advice is to ask the engineer if you can follow a technician round for a day and help him out.
    Then you'll get into the heart of the plant aligning pumps, fixing pipe work, overhauling equipment.
    The techs will look after you (you'll get alit of stick but its all good fun) Then you wont be sitting on your *** all day.
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