The private aviation industry has taken off in the last year or so, due largely in part to Covid’s affect on travel. For companies like American Precision Avionics (APA), that means a boom in business. To stay on top of their growing demands, this Duluth-based aerospace company has been steadily expanding their workforce since 2018, bringing on seasonal interns every summer.

One of their previous interns, Kellen Bolander, is now working for APA fulltime as an engineering and tech manager. This year he came full circle when he helped interview a new batch of interns to take on process improvements and 3D printing projects for APA.

Meet the interns
Brady Bauman is a mechanical engineering major from the University of Minnesota-Duluth. His primary job involved conducting a tester audit. This required him to check electrical tests, cross-reference their dates and confirm active processes. Bauman worked on a handful of side projects as well, though his favorite he said was getting to 3D print parts for a testing board that he built.

“Drafting and design are both things that I really I enjoy,” said Bauman. “Staying within spec, but also designing cool stuff that helps people is definitely where I want to be.”

Dora Linton, a chemical engineering major also from the University of Minnesota-Duluth, contributed a lot to the processes project as well. Everything from writing new procedures to creating a master spreadsheet to organize and document it all. She also assisted with the tester audit and learned a great deal about 3D printing.

“I like doing the extra research,” she said, “There’s lots to learn here and I enjoy that.”

Making a world of difference
Going from an intern to an employee to a manager, Bolander found a unique opportunity to develop his leadership skills while seeing the company from a variety of new perspectives.

“The [interns] are teaching me new things every day, like asking me questions on stuff that I otherwise take for granted,” Bolander said. That freedom to ask questions not only encourages the fulltime staff to think critically about their process, but also creates an encouraging environment for the students to learn as much as they can.

“I’ve really liked working at a company where there’s open communication. It makes a world of difference,” Linton said.

“I’m at the point now where I’m rounding the corner from learning new things to implementing them,” Bauman added. Thanks to this experience, “I can now say that I’ve worked in a high-stakes, professional environment[…] I feel like I’m an engineer here. They’ve done a really good job of delegating tasks that are relevant to us and to engineering and to the business. We’re still within the scope of our abilities, but we’re also helping the company and we know that, and I think that’s really important.”

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