Ben Berhow and Wil Comer—two seniors majoring in mechanical engineering at the University of Iowa—both landed part-time jobs with the miniSim team at the National Advanced Driving Simulator this past year, giving them valuable on-the-job experience.
They assemble new miniSims and upgrade existing ones, following the customer’s specifications and under the supervision of miniSim Director Andrew Veit. They order the necessary parts and have become adept both at designing new in-house solutions, such as designing a new steering loader, and at adapting existing products to fit their needs.
The steering wheels, for example, that the team were previously using are no longer manufactured, and the new model didn’t have the inputs they needed. So they collaborated with Veit and the miniSim software developers to come up with a solution. “That project was a perfect example of how fortunate we are to work on a smaller team,” said Comer. “We can freely share our ideas and progress and work alongside professionals to problem-solve, which has definitely strengthened my communication skills in a professional setting.” He pointed out that some of their classmates are on teams of 50 or more interns at larger companies, who don’t get the same attention and development that Comer and Berhow get at NADS.
While working on a miniSim, they follow documentation instructions in existing manuals, while also looking for ways to improve the manuals as they go. “I’ve really learned to be adaptable and roll with the punches,” said Berhow. “You go into a project thinking you’ll be able to follow the manual, but you often need to problem solve and figure out new solutions as you go.”
What’s next for the pair? After graduation, Comer will be looking for a research and development job with a focus on design and materials, while Berhow will attend graduate school at the University of Iowa in mechanical engineering.
“Working under Andy [Veit] has been phenomenal,” added Berhow. “He really takes the time to teach, so it’s been an amazing learning opportunity.”