This summer I was an intern in Sandia’s Wind Technologies group in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I want to work at a national lab when I graduate and with this internship I was able to get a glimpse of what it’s like to work at one. Sandia has a highly productive, yet relaxed atmosphere, which is a difficult balance to strike in the workplace. I think it is because everyone there is very passionate about what they do; making their hard work a labor of love. Everyone I met was extremely welcoming and there were even some programs to help interns get familiar with the area.
The region has some unique landscapes which are remarkable. I was able to hike in the Sandia Mountain range, and trained for my first half marathon by running along the Rio Grande. Petroglyph National Monument and Bandolier National Monument were amazing places to visit. The preserved ancient drawings are a window into a world long before any European Settlers set foot on this land. The climate is much different from Pullmans. It is so dry here that I once stepped onto my apartment’s balcony to watch a rain storm, only to realize amid a face full of sand that it was actually a Haboob, a small dust storm.
I was able to learn a lot about wind technology advancements as well as research in other groups. The Labs set up tours so that we could learn about many different types of energy research that is conducted at Sandia. One of the tours was of the concentrating solar power tower. This facility is used to test different concentrating solar techniques before large commercial investments are made. Recently it has been used to thermally stress test materials for use on the nose cone of rockets during re-entry. Other areas that we toured included the Water Energy Technology Group, and the Distributed Energy Technologies Lab.
The concentrating solar tower collector glows from all the incident radiation in the background. A half inch thick aluminium plate in the foreground has a gaping hole from where it was melted after 15 seconds in the concentrated light.
My work involved data collected from the Scaled Wind Farm Technology (SWiFT) Facility, which is a research farm with three wind turbines in Lubbock, Texas. You can go on a virtual tour of the facility here http://wbt.sandia.gov/elearning/Temp/NEO_tours/SWIFT/
My mentors were extremely helpful throughout my internship, but I was given enough independence that I was able to create my own research project which, with a fair amount of guidance, I have turned into a paper for submission to AIAA’s SciTech conference.
Earlier this summer I was able to present my research work at ASME’s Power and Energy Conference in Charlotte, North Carolina. This was a great experience networking with researchers working on similar problems and sharing my ideas about the use of neural networks for grid dispatch optimization.
I was also able to attend the Global Grand Challenges Summit in Washington DC where students from the US, China, and the UK networked with researchers from all three countries on the 14 grand challenges which are listed here http://www.engineeringchallenges.org/challenges.aspx
Even though there are 14 challenges I attended sessions that focused on making solar energy economical and restoring and improving urban infrastructure.
This summer I have gotten to travel a lot, meet a lot of new people, and explore many new places. It’s been a great adventure, but I am looking forward to making my 4th cross country road trip to get back to Pullman. I’ll be happy to be back among the green buttes and the familiar friendly faces of the CESI lab.