Stevens Undergraduate Spencer English Interns In China

4/18/2012

It is only his third semester at Stevens Institute of Technology, but all the way in China, Spencer English is gaining real-world engineering experience through Stevens comprehensive Cooperative Education program. Spencer’s six-month internship took him to Tianjin, a large city about 70 miles from Beijing. There he works for Walbro Engine Management, the world’s largest manufacturer of carburetors and a major manufacturer of ignition systems, fuel injection and air/fuel management components, and fuel storage and delivery components for engines.

A Mechanical Engineering major with a concentration in Product Design and Manufacturing, Spencer works in the Manufacturing Engineering Department of Walbro, aiding in the assembly process for creating a new part for motorcycles and scooters. Armed with 3D CAD knowledge received in his time at Stevens, Spencer was able to jump right into design with minimal training. He started out designing fixtures for the assembly and machining process and is now working on the assembly process itself. It is a complex process, he says, and one he is learning about in real time. “At first, I figured that I would just have to piece each step of the actual assembly together and the associated fixtures with them. But there’s way more to it than that,” he recalls. He had to account for manufacturing processes, manage the flow of parts and workers’ assembly velocities, and even determine in what way parts will be shipped to Walbro. It has been quite a learning experience for Spencer. “The main thing I would get out of this is observe everything,” he says. “Every step is accounted for, and each thing has a reason, even the smallest.”

Dr. Frank Fisher, assistant professor of Mechanical Engineering, says Spencer’s experience will teach him about more than just engineering: “Not only does Spencer have an opportunity to see how classroom concepts are applied in an industrial setting, but he has the chance to do so in the context of a global perspective. What a fantastic learning experience!”

Though he did not speak any Chinese at the beginning of his co-op internship, Spencer jumped at the chance to pursue his passion for product development abroad. “I’m not one to turn down an opportunity to work in a foreign country,” he says. The culture and language gap took some adjustment, such as having to arrange for translators, but Spencer says he is adapting to the setting, learning the language, and making friends. “I was lucky and my supervisor is probably one of the nicest guys in the world,” Spencer reports. “He invited me into his home and we became good friends. Now, I go to his house almost every day, we have Chinese lessons and dinner, and it’s great.”

Originally from Arizona, Spencer chose Stevens, The Innovation University™, because its engineering program offers a real-life application of math and science. The internship at Walbro has allowed him to follow his love of engines and vehicles, but Spencer maintains that he is fascinated by all aspects of design.

“I like to design anything,” Spencer explains. “I particularly enjoy the challenge of making things work properly. There are so many variables to design that people never think about and there are so many options for how to design something. I love the challenge.”

Spencer arrives back in the United States in December, and is already blueprinting life post-graduation. He plans to enroll in the armed forces and serve as an engineering officer, and afterward pursue an M.B.A. But before that he looks forward to learning a little more about Mechanical Engineering. “I can’t wait to take ME 529 my senior year,” he said: “Modern and Advanced Combustion Engines.”