When Matthew Stilwell, 20, first applied for his field engineering internship at Southern California Edison earlier this summer, he expected to fetch coffees and file papers.
Instead, after 12 weeks, the California State University, Fresno student’s proposal to re-direct the flow of electricity will be implemented as a $450,000 company project to shorten outages in the city of Visalia.
“I had no idea I would be entrusted to work on a project like this. In school, you learn the theory behind it, but being in the field totally changed the way I thought about things,” he said. “It’s incredible to know that this will help change things in my community.”
Within the next year, Stilwell, who grew up in nearby Fresno, will be able to drive down the dirt road and see the solution he envisioned come to life. His proposed equipment installation will improve reliability in the region and allow for power to be rerouted in another direction when distribution lines and equipment are damaged.
The electrical engineering major is one of 150 SCE interns who spent the summer applying their skills to projects that will leave lasting impacts on the utility. These paid interns are placed in different departments, from Information Technology to Engineering to Customer Service, and work on projects that improve safety, promote electric vehicles and help build the electric grid of the future.
At the Irvine Operations Center, intern Houston Warren, 22, is also doing his part to prevent potential outages. The Duke University statistics major spent several weeks developing algorithms to detect potential equipment issues and address them before outages occur. He realized the significance of his work while out on field visits when he saw how the colorful dots and lines he analyzed online translated into towering electrical equipment in real life.
“I was given a lot of responsibility and ownership over my projects. I got to sit in front of my code and go out into the world and see what it was going to impact,” said Warren. “It was inspiring to learn about the operations and see that my work is going to outlive my summer internship.”
Through its summer internship programs, SCE provides students and recent graduates with the opportunity to jump-start their careers and gain experience working in the power industry.
It has been rewarding for Tricia Joyner, an SCE University and Campus Relations Recruiter manager who oversees the internship programs, to see the interns grow through their experiences.
At a recent Intern Expo, held at the company’s headquarters in Rosemead, Stilwell, Warren and more than 50 other interns showcased their projects, which included ideas to improve radio communications for field workers in remote areas and raising awareness of electrical damage caused by metallic balloons.
“Our goal is to hire from our intern pool so the more realistic we can make their experience, the better,” said Joyner. “You can really see their brightness apply to the workplace. If this is any indication of what it’s going to be, the future of Edison looks really bright.”
Learn more about SCE internships and how to apply: Edison Careers.