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Internships Under I-DREAM4D National Consortium
by U.S. Army Della Adame, Corpus Christi Army Depot
September 23, 2023

Corpus Christi Army Depot’s ability to deliver on its commitments has long been centered on the talents of its workforce, and building pipelines through academic institutions is key to attracting the next generation of dedicated employees.

The Corpus Christi Army Depot (CCAD) can now offer an opportunity to receive interns under the support of I-DREAM4D National Consortium ... a network created by the Department of Defense for Innovation Driven Research/Education Ecosystem for Advanced Manufacturing for Defense.

It comprises five higher education institutions: University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV), UT Austin, UT San Antonio, Virginia Tech and Virginia State University, as well as national research centers, defense labs, defense manufacturers, local high school districts and community colleges. The goal is to promote advanced, additive manufacturing and smart manufacturing, and support innovations for the defense industries.

“Internships can often be a vital steppingstone in the journey toward a successful career,” said Rod Benson, CCAD deputy and chief operations officer. “[Internships] provide the opportunity to gain insight into real-world problems, gain tangible experience, and develop both personally and professionally while increasing the students’ chances of future employment success.”

Mario Cazares and Jorge Barron, engineering students from UTRGV, reported to the depot as 30-day interns in early August.

August 28, 2023 - Jorge Barron and Mario Cazares, engineering students from University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, who reported to the Corpus Christi Army Depot as 30-day interns in early August 2023, were assigned projects that would improve depot workflow processes and fixtures used in the repair and maintenance of helicopters. They found themselves in a learning environment working with artisans, work leaders and professional engineers, obtaining various levels of experience and exposure to real-world situations. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Army photo by Della Adame, Corpus Christi Army Depot.)
August 28, 2023 - Jorge Barron and Mario Cazares, engineering students from University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, who reported to the Corpus Christi Army Depot as 30-day interns in early August 2023, were assigned projects that would improve depot workflow processes and fixtures used in the repair and maintenance of helicopters. They found themselves in a learning environment working with artisans, work leaders and professional engineers, obtaining various levels of experience and exposure to real-world situations. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Army photo by Della Adame, Corpus Christi Army Depot.)

Cazares and Barron were assigned projects that would improve workflow processes and fixtures used in the repair and maintenance of helicopters. They found themselves in a learning environment working with artisans, work leaders and professional engineers, obtaining various levels of experience and exposure to real-world situations.

Thomas Sandoval, director of production engineering, is optimistic about the depot’s long-term strategy to ensure that the next generation is mentored and trained by professionals with knowledge and expertise.

Sandoval said, “Having students eager with new perspectives injects energy into an organization and shifts to teach and learn moments. Often, looking at challenges with a fresh perspective will provide practical solutions.”

One of Barron’s projects fostered valuable hands-on experience with an aircraft component process prep that required him to use his skills to create special fittings for a gear. The preparation was time-consuming and tedious. His solution was to print 3D masking covers out of polycarbonate to protect non-targeted areas as a reusable, reliable and efficient alternative.

Cazares was assigned to the weldment stand project, which would enable component stability during the repair process. The current stand was too low for artisans, and support was inefficient to carry the weight of engine components properly. The solution was to raise the height of the stand to ergonomic standards and add two middle supports made with a stainless-steel sheet metal to hold the engine component securely.

The interns also collaborated with a CCAD team on a significant project involving drilling a 308 beam. The part is a major component used in rotary-winged aircraft to support the frame of the UH-60 Black Hawk. The interns assessed opportunities to improve particulate reduction, heat, and ergonomics during the drilling process. They recommended using special HEPA tools and portable air-conditioning units to mitigate exposure to dust particulates.

Their experience gained at CCAD through the I-DREAM4D Program enhanced their future. Barron wants to return to college to pursue a higher-level degree and become a professor. Cazares is seeking employment in the engineering field.

Cazares has wanted to be an engineer since high school. He had a knack for figuring out how things function and finding solutions to problems. The interest stuck with him as he learned more and could apply skills to projects.

“I'm excited about using engineering to create useful things and help the world around us,” he said. “During my internship at CCAD, I worked on real projects using the skills I've learned. This experience motivated me to actively pursue more opportunities to apply what I've learned in the future phases of my career.”

For Barron, his interest in engineering started in middle school, but it was in high school that he learned that engineers could help society by inventing and creating tools, roads, machines, and many things we use daily.

“I thought that was very cool and decided to pursue my early college career during high school.”

Barron spends his free time continuing his education and working toward his doctorate. He wants to open a ‘makerspace’ in the Rio Grande Valley — where anyone can come and use machinery to complete their creative designs without buying expensive machinery for their homes.

Following their time at the depot, the interns gave a presentation to UTRGV educators and CCAD leaders on the results of their projects.

Benson said, “The engineering solutions provided by the two UTRGV interns have proven highly effective, showcasing their technical acumen and ability to adapt in a complex environment. Their innovative approaches and collaborative efforts addressed challenging real-world problems but also provided a fresh perspective to our depot, elevating Army readiness.”

CCAD and UTRGV are looking to expand the scope of the program next year by increasing the number of interns and time spent on location.

Students can visit the Office of Personnel Management website for more information.

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Minor editing without impacting facts.

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