While studying industrial engineering at the University of Minnesota, Erick Sipila actively pursued his interest in solar technology. He participated in the U of M’s solar vehicle project and secured SciTech internships with the TruNorth Solar company for two consecutive summers. It wasn’t long after graduation that Sipila ventured into entrepreneurship and started his own small business, Sisu Solar, for residential solar panel installation.
Having been a recent intern himself, he knew the value that experience could provide, for the student he hired and for his budding company. So he turned back to the SciTech Internship Program, posted a job and connected with Mechanical Engineering Major Elle Potts.
Solar from A to Z
Prior to Sisu, Potts knew she wanted to find an internship in solar, to get some experience in the field and to see how much she liked it.
“There’s a lot of opportunities in solar,” Potts said, and she knew this internship could help her tap into them.
Working closely with Sipila and his team, Potts saw every aspect of Sisu’s services. From the first day of her internship, she was on-site, learning safety protocols, training with new tools and going over procedures.
“Elle is learning the whole process from A to Z. From the initial sale to writing the proposal, engineering everything online in advance and calculating how much energy each solar array will produce,” Sipila explained. “Now I’m even giving her customers who’ve reached out to say they’re interested in solar so she can help them out.”
Planning the systems, Potts said, requires a lot of calculations and math to double check the connections and make sure that everything works the way it’s meant to. Then, if problems emerge on site, it’s just a matter of engineering a solution. All of this she approached with readiness and determination.
“I feel pretty lucky that I got Elle,” Sipila said, “and that I found her through the SciTech program was really nice.”
Potts learned a lot during her time at Sisu. In addition to her on-site work, she also attended a solar expo and enrolled in some Midwest Renewable Energy Association courses, earning an additional associate’s degree that works toward her installation certification.
Her goal of gaining experience in industry hasn’t stopped. As an active user on the SciTech platform, Potts has already secured a summer internship with Frontier Energy as an energy analyst intern. So, whether planning and installing solar panels or assisting with energy management, Pott’s portfolio of experiences continues to grow.