MOCVD stands for metal organic chemical vapor deposition. It’s a technology used in the manufacturing of semiconductor wafers for microchips and electronics. Agnitron Technology, based in Chanhassen, Minnesota, is a leading supplier of Oxide and research MOCVD systems and solutions. Every year they take on a vast amount of R&D projects for their clients and for the past few summers Agnitron has hired engineering majors to help them.

“Given that we’re a small company, our interns balance a lot of different projects,” said Aaron Fine, the Engineering Manager at Agnitron. “They have big projects that they’re constantly working on and then, as things come up, they take on smaller projects that need attention.”

This year, Agnitron welcomed three SciTech interns to their team: Nathan Noma, an aerospace and mechanics engineering major at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, Joe Pfaffinger, a mechanical engineering major at the U, and Sam Vogt, a chemical engineering major at the University of Minnesota-Duluth.

Design and research
Pfaffinger and Noma worked on similar projects, 3D modeling parts and adjusting the designs as needed before helping with assembly.

“My favorite part has been starting new projects from square one and seeing the brainstorming and the preliminary ideas for designs. I get to be creative with problem solving,” Pfaffinger said. “The first time that I saw a part I designed, modeled on the computer and fabricated, that was really exciting.”

“I agree with joe,” Noma said. “It’s interesting being able to make something from scratch while thinking about the customer requirements and try to figure out a solution to that. You have to try different things to see what works and what doesn’t.”

With his chemical background, Vogt worked on polishing and etching substrates. He’s also conducted research on a new chemical that Agnitron is planning to use to grow new materials.

“I liked working with the chemicals and getting to put on the yellow suit,” Vogt said, referring to the gear he wore while working in the cleanroom.

“The benefit of having Sam here is that I don’t need to be [in the lab] all the time,” said Fikadu Alema, a senior research scientist at Agnitron. “I know he can handle it, so I can work on other things.”

The big picture
In comparison to where they started, Noma and Pfaffinger are now more familiar working with 3D design software, and all three interns have developed a wider understanding of the business and how their work contributes.

“I understand my role in these projects and how the process of developing components for a company works,” he said. “Once you get those basic steps down, I’ve been able to take on more responsibility and am actually contributing to the design. That’s been a good progression.”

“I’ve gotten a better understanding of the big picture of what we’re working toward with these systems,” Pfaffinger added. “That helps with being creative and thinking up good solutions to problems.”

“At first it was just learning the systems and how they work. Now I’m actually growing some of the materials on the substrates. This experience has really reassured me that I can get past any obstacle,” Vogt said proudly.

Get involved
Looking to build your small business workforce? SciTech’s new program year begins September 1st! Apply now and start planning your internship experience today.

Returning SciTech students can send their current transcript to to reactivate their account for the 2022 program year.