Intern insight: Focusing an electrical engineering interest in the AEC industry

Abdullah Soofi is a student at Michigan State University who realized electrical engineering was his passion after his first site visit.

By: Abdullah Soofi

From playing with remote control cars as a kid to learning how remote control cars operated, I have always had a fascination for electronics. As my interests developed and I was introduced to scientific methods and physics theories, electrical engineering became the most fascinating to study.

Electrical engineering is everywhere: automotive, chemical, electronics, telecommunications, utilities, consumer goods, etc. However, what interested me the most was how power was generated and distributed nationwide. Throughout college, I learned about transformers and generators and started performing electrical calculations for real-life scenarios. When I went on my first site visit, I knew I was hooked. I saw transformers and transmission lines up close and realized what my calculations and drawings could create – a powerful infrastructure that benefits everyone. Since then, I knew I wanted to focus my electrical engineering interest in the architectural, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry.

During my first week at Atwell as an intern, I was introduced to the program SAM (System Advisory Model). This program helps you determine the performance of renewable energy systems, such as solar arrays and wind turbines. The engineer who mentored me shared training videos on how to use the program, walked me through the model he was working on, and then had me perform the calculations to see if I would receive the same results. I encountered a few hiccups since it was my first time using the program, but he assisted me every step of the way and ultimately, I got the same data as him. Having the ability to be introduced to new software and receiving hands-on experience on how to use the program in its entirety was an enlightening experience. It was rewarding to not only reach similar results but to work with different engineers to find a solution. To this day, learning and using SAM was my favorite task as an intern.

This past summer, I was exposed to 90%, 60%, and 30% reviews and taught the differences and levels of progression between the documents; wrote specifications and understood what variables you must consider in advising the contractor; and learned about other software like PVsyst – a tool to help study, size, and analyze data of PV (photovoltaic) systems. One of the most interesting projects I worked on was preparing an ERCOT (Electric Reliability Council of Texas) winter readiness report for the state of Texas. Texas experienced many power shortages earlier this year due to the extreme cold weather and unstable power infrastructure, and this report identified solutions and implementable protocols so they are readily prepared should an event like this happen again. While creating the report, I was introduced to both ERCOT and the organization NERC (North American Electric Reliability Corporation). This process showed me how in-depth electrical engineers need to be in the work they do and how important it can be on a regional and national level. It fueled my interest in the industry that much more.

During my college classes, I am taught electrical engineering in a broad sense because it can be applied in so many different industries. At Atwell, I was exposed to a variety of projects and understood what to apply and how to apply my teachings in a real-world scenario. They provided the tools – like hands-on experience, training videos, or documents that other engineers created – to help me grow as a future electrical engineering professional. I worked with an inspiring team that took me under their wing and exposed me to the ins and outs of the AEC industry – like how they approach and complete tasks, which software they use, and how to use the software efficiently and effectively. This internship really helped me solidify my career choice to be an electrical engineer in the AEC industry.

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