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Why did you choose an internship with Booz Allen? When did you know you’d made the right decision?
Name: Francesca Jarrett
College/University: Columbia University
Hometown: Albuquerque, New Mexico
While career advisors and mentors spend a lot of time counseling young professionals on the importance of perfecting an “elevator pitch,” I was unprepared for the necessity of mastering an “innocent elevator smile”—an essential skill for my first year as a Booz Allen Summer Games Intern. I’m talking about the innocuous grin I flashed well-dressed men and women when I entered the elevator of a high-rise office building carrying cans of spray paint, old leaf blowers, a decrepit chest freezer, and a high-powered air compressor. It’s all in a day’s work for an intern team designing and testing an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) de-icing system using a homemade wind tunnel in a conference-room-turned-lab.
As an English major with an eclectic background that includes everything from data mining Centers for Disease Control (CDC) records for a Silicon Valley startup to serving on the NASA GeneLab steering committee, I’m not the person you might picture working to develop a UAV de-icing system. To be honest, when I first applied to be a Summer Games Intern I had no clue what I was getting into. What I did know is that I love challenge, working with diverse and motivated peers, and thinking in new ways. With this in mind, I had little doubt that Booz Allen was the perfect place to spend the summer. When I learned that I was paired with a team of engineers, tackling a problem that has stumped aerospace experts and PhD researchers for years, I couldn’t have been more excited.
Throughout the summer, I not only mastered the art of fending off strange looks in the elevator and designing avant-garde testing equipment, but also developed a patent-pending (and Summer Games winning!) de-icing system alongside some of the most brilliant, fun, and interesting people. While I’m not sure when I realized I’d made the right decision in becoming a Booz Allen Summer Games Intern (it could have been the first time that I participated in a pitch session—verbalizing every crazy idea that I had for solving our challenge, or the day that we almost set our “icing wind tunnel” on fire right before a major presentation), I do know that when it came to deciding what I wanted to do this summer, there was no question in my mind that I wanted to do it all again.
What skills are you hoping to build this summer through your internship? How will it affect the rest of your career?
Last summer I learned that the diversity of Booz Allen teams—our divergent interests, educational backgrounds, and personalities—allow us to approach a single problem from different perspectives and arrive at a single, revolutionary solution.
My team took full advantage of our diversity, and our mentors also pushed us to learn a variety of new skills to fill in remaining gaps in our collective knowledge. For example, as an English major, I was able to translate many of the research and writing techniques that I use when analyzing Shakespeare or writing essays about Toni Morrison, while also taking a crash course on everything from fluid dynamics to capacitive sensors in order to contribute to the team. Along the same lines, one of my mechanical engineer teammates became our de facto graphic designer throughout the course of the summer, while another tackled tasks typically reserved for electrical engineers. In fact, I am currently working on creating a business plan for our Summer Games project—taking advantage of the skills I taught myself last summer to estimate the potential return on investment for our product.
More than any one skill, the Summer Games gave me the ability to work as a member of a diverse team. Leveraging my existing skillset against my willingness to take on novel projects and teach myself new competencies is something that I anticipate will be integral to my career throughout the rest of my life, no matter where my career takes me.
How did your work this summer help change the world? How did it change you? What are you most proud of?
My great aunt and uncle live in Northern California, where wildfires are raging. Every year, they prepare to evacuate, as increasingly unpredictable blazes baffle firefighters and meteorologists. While rapid, accurate, and consistent wildfire monitoring is imperative, ground communication systems are often compromised by large-scale disasters, and it’s unsafe to deploy planes, helicopters, or even unmanned aerial vehicles. The same goes for other natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and volcanic eruptions. In these scenarios, constellations of CubeSats—a system of small satellites that have the ability to better photograph and predict the path of natural disasters, can aid emergency responders.
CubeSats can create tangible, lasting change around the globe. Unlike traditional large satellites, CubeSats are relatively cheap, fast to manufacture, and can be launched on rockets. Unfortunately, even though CubeSat constellations could establish more accurate and consistent natural disaster monitoring, existing CubeSat technology isn’t advanced enough to fulfill these capabilities
This summer, my team and I worked to solve this problem—engineering an industry-disrupting CubeSat design that is compatible with a variety of missions. Compared to traditional CubeSats, our final product provides more space inside of the satellite to include important sensors and propulsion systems and represents a massive leap forward in CubeSat manufacturing. Our design will double the average lifespan for a CubeSat, includes a twelve-percent internal volume increase compared to the current industry leader, and can be manufactured for one-sixth of the cost and in a fraction of the time.
I’m proud of everything my team and I accomplished this summer—from our final product to the way we worked together on every aspect of the design. It’s been another great summer with Booz Allen.