I have just finished the fourth week of my internship and am in awe of how much I've learned so far and how fast the summer is already going by. Having completed my first two weeks virtually and then transitioned into working in person for the last two weeks, I can tell you firsthand how much more valuable the last two weeks in person have been for my personal growth and learning. My first two weeks consisted of a lot of onboarding meetings to gain a better understanding of the overall company, its current state, and the role that each person plays to move the company forward. Outside of meetings, I spent most of my time reading through technical documentation regarding the devices themselves and how they actually work. This included calculation sheets, reference manuals, datasheets for individual parts, etc. I found myself asking my director as many questions as I could squeeze into our daily 1-on-1 meetings in order to develop as strong of an understanding on the device's hardware as possible. I also began adding notes to the KiCad schematics to help make them easier to read and understand.
Before we began working in our new Walnut Creek office at the start of June, the company invited us all to a small office warming party on Memorial Day. This gave me the chance to meet everyone in the company in person, including the other interns that I'll be working with throughout the summer. As an extrovert, it felt amazing to finally meet new people in person and learn about what they're working on within the company. On my first day in person, I was given a company laptop and a desk next to the other engineers with a beautiful view outside our 8th floor windows. I've really been enjoying everyone's company throughout the workday and always look forward to chatting with my coworkers during our lunch breaks (definitely beats working alone in my bedroom for an entire year!). I spent that first week in person surveying the market for potential solar cells that could be used to power our individual devices. This process required me to contact major solar distributors and determine both cost and lead time estimates for procuring 420 units for our PG&E pilot project, where we will be deploying hundreds of our devices around Calistoga, CA. Going through these steps exposed me to just how complex supply chain management can get.
This past week, I ordered a few sample panels for testing purposes and began drafting a schedule for my internship project, which is to determine the best photovoltaic solution for Gridware. This project will involve answering big questions like figuring out if it is best to use an existing panel on the market or to make our own solar array. I will also need to optimize around size constraints, create a procedure for testing the system, figure out how to mount my system onto the device, determine variations in solar irradiance at different spots, and optimize placement on the pole and attachment angle. When I was first looking into all of these necessary steps, it seemed very overwhelming and stressful. However, after working with my director this week and breaking everything up into smaller tasks, I realize that these goals are definitely attainable; I just need to stay focused and fully devote myself to this project for the next 7 weeks. I look forward to getting my hands dirty with this project and applying the concepts I've learned at Cal to real world solutions.