Most kids go through a space-phase at some point in their childhood, or want to be an astronaut when they grow up. Though many of us grow to change our minds, some don’t.
David Oberg had similar aspirations. Now, as an adult working in his field, he’s not escaping earth’s atmosphere in a rocket ship, but he is designing, manufacturing and even installing products in and on spacecraft that will be sent into orbit.
This week in Where are They Now?, we talk to SciTech alumni David Oberg. After interning with Aerospace Fabrication and Materials LLC. in Farmington, Minnesota, Oberg was hired to work there full-time in the industry that has inspired him since he was young.
In order to help inspire fellow aerospace engineers and show off the success of the program, Oberg was happy to provide some insight into his SciTech internship experience and how it lead him to where he is today.
(This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity)
Let’s start with your background. What did you study in school?
Oberg: I received a Bachelors in Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics with a minor in Astrophysics from the University of Minnesota.
Have you always been interested in Aerospace? What drew you to it?
Oberg: Who doesn’t like planes and rockets when they’re a kid!? I think it was always something I was interested in, but I never really considered it as a career until I was in high school. The draw for me was really being able to apply scientific principles to real world applications, and to do it in an industry that is constantly evolving and pushing the envelope of what is possible.
You started at Aerospace Fabrication and Materials (AFM) as a SciTech intern. Tell us what that was like. What were some of the projects you worked on?
Oberg: As an intern, my main responsibilities were supporting the engineering staff in whatever way was needed. Being a relatively small company, the engineers are expected to be very flexible in their day-to-day duties, so I would help prepare work instructions for the manufacturing floor, write code for software tools we utilize, help build and modify tooling, and even help develop and construct prototypes.
Talk to us about your current role. What are your new responsibilities as an Aerospace Engineer, and what’s the biggest difference between being an intern vs. an employee?
Oberg: In my current role as an engineer, I do a lot more project management and have more of a hand in the design and development, rather than just supporting other engineers in their projects. I take a project from quoting, through design and development, manufacturing, inspection, and finally to delivery and in some cases installation on structure.
What’s the coolest thing about working in the aerospace industry?
Oberg: I think the best part about working in the aerospace industry is getting to work on hardware that actually flies in space. I’ve been fortunate enough to get a few opportunities to visit customer sites and install our products onto spacecraft, and it’s always an awesome experience to work hands on with the structure.
Talk to me about your future. How has your time at AFM inspired your professional (and perhaps personal) goals?
Oberg: I think the most important thing my time at AFM has done is really solidify my desire to work in the aerospace industry. Even on days that are challenging or taxing, I really enjoy myself because of the industry I’m in.
If you could offer advice to students looking to secure internships and jobs in your field, what would you tell them?
Oberg: Get involved in side projects and engineering groups EARLY. While a lot of the things you learn in classes are important, the things you learn while working on projects are going to be the most translatable to your work in the industry. Decent grades and involvement in engineering projects are far more enticing to hiring managers than perfect grades but no other experience.
Is there anything that we haven’t yet covered that you would like to include?
Oberg: I just want to mention that I love what the SciTech program does for students and small companies alike. As a student, it gave me a great opportunity to find smaller Minnesota companies in my industry that most of my peers had never heard of. And getting that opportunity directly led to my employment when I graduated. Now on the other side, working for a company that uses the program, it really allows us to expand our internship opportunities and offer more opportunities as we grow. I can’t stress enough how important a program like this is as both a former student and current employee in industry. You all do a great job, keep it up!
About Where are They Now?:
For more in the Where are They Now series, check out some of our previous success stories:
Business Systems Analyst Amanda Bentley
Civil Engineer Austin Stroming
Mechanical Engineer Dakshina Jayakody
At least 350 wage matches are available through August of 2019. Learn more about the SciTech Internship Program, apply online today and start your journey toward internship success.