New MakerLab Program Helps Students Land Industry Jobs

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This year we piloted a program to give CCNY students an opportunity to develop their skills by working on projects out of our MakerLab. As our own Technology Program Director, Devin Voorsanger, puts it, “We’re a teaching hospital for engineers. It’s like an apprenticeship that builds on what students have learned in their classes to prepare them for industry careers.”

And after one semester, we’re very pleased that one of our SuperUsers, Jason Pratt–part of a cohort of 24 students specializing in Software, CAD Design, Electronics, and Advanced Manufacturing–was offered a full-time position at Lockheed Martin. Jason shares some of his thoughts on the program and his experiences below, proving that passion and drive can help you reach your dreams.

The first time Jason heard about the Zahn Center was during his first semester at CCNY. He recalls having a conversation with a classmate about a project. Jason immediately saw the business potential, and started to imagine turning the project into a venture. His classmate suggested that he check out the Zahn Center.

“He said there would be a lot of other students there who I would click with…Engineers trying to make their ideas come to fruition. So later that day, I walked into the Zahn Center’s MakerLab. I was blown away! There were engineering students working on a mechatronics device, and students were soldering boards, running code for motors, and testing their designs. That was my first experience witnessing engineering students practicing their trade. That day, I walked around to get more of an idea of what was at the Zahn Center. I saw an array of 3D printers printing components and pieces, and it reminded me of why I pursued engineering in the first place.”

And that’s when Jason realized that he needed to become a part of our community. He recalls, “Considering I had experience with a few of the printers that were at the lab, I went and spoke with the lead engineer to see if he needed any extra help with the 3D printers. At the time, they didn’t need any extra help, but fast forward a year and a half later, and a friend of mine tells me the Zahn Center is starting a program to give engineering students real work experience. I was excited, having heard that I would learn how to use the industrial sized 3D printers, CNC machines, and laser cutter. I also knew I’d get to practice geometric coding, the language 3D printers use.”

From there, Jason interviewed for and accepted a position as a SuperUser. He was brought on during the Summer of 2017, and then quickly showed he was capable of more responsibility. Along with three other students, he took on the role of a senior SuperUser in Fall 2017, and led a “pod” of five other students around Advanced Manufacturing projects.

When he interviewed for a full time position at Lockheed Martin, he was pleasantly surprised, and was offered a position he didn’t initially apply for–Manufacturing Engineer II. Jason believes he was offered a more advanced position, “partly because of the experience I already had working with CNC machines, and partly because I showcased leadership skills leading a team of SuperUsers here at The Zahn Center. I really do believe the Zahn Center played a large role in preparing me for my interviewing process. Using the array of different machines, and always being in the shop or fabricating lab was exactly what I needed to become a competitive candidate for employment. Having lead a team of additive manufacturing SuperUsers allowed me to hone my leadership skills.”

He goes on to say, “The Zahn Center helped me tailor my resume to stand out–I just didn’t have a generic engineering resume, they helped me make it as detailed and lean as a professional resume should be. They also helped me create a portfolio to showcase my skillset in the different projects I have completed and achievements I have accomplished. Staff at the Zahn Center made sure that as part of the leadership development program they provide, they teach you how to properly manage a team and complete a product development project.”

Once Jason starts his new job, he’ll work with technicians to machine aluminum and titanium parts for transmission in helicopters. His advice to all students is to find a passion, become obsessed with it, learn everything there is to know about it, and master it! Until then, he’ll join us at the Zahn Center to help our lead engineer with projects over Winter Break. And in the Spring, we’ll welcome a new cohort of SuperUsers eager to master their craft. Stay tuned for more news about the program, and about updates to our MakerLab coming soon!