Outside the Classroom
Research and Internship Opportunities
Why an internship?
Internships provide valuable on-the-job experience for students to learn and develop in a professional engineering environment. Students graduate with on-the-job experience making them more valuable to future employers and increases opportunities for more responsible initial career assignments. It provides career perspective that can't be learned in a classroom.
The Internship Program provides students with industrial experience during their junior and senior years. Through the intern program, students gain an understanding of an engineer's role in industry. For future employers, it provides graduates who know what they want in their careers, who are familiar with the environment, and have an understanding of the corporate culture. Internships prepare students by teaching them to work with others as a team, and how to apply classroom knowledge in the real world.
More information on Internships Job Contacts
The Co-op Program provides engineering work experience beginning no earlier than the completion of the sophomore year. During this time students complete either two or three full-time work semesters interspersed with semesters of full-time academic coursework.
A minimum number of two work semesters are required to satisfy the cooperative education requirements and one of those work semesters must be a spring or fall semester. A co-op will not consist of just summer semesters.
A Co-op participant is paid and also receives academic credit for the work semester's online co-op course.
AEM Co-Op Program Information
Qualified AEM students may participate in the CSE Engineering Co-op Program in order to gain valuable work experience while maintaining a full-time-student status and earning elective credits towards their degree.
Completion of the program requires engagement in co-op work over at least two terms, including a summer term.
- Applicants must be upper-division AEM majors in good academic standing as determined by the AEM Director of Undergraduate Studies.
- All required coursework through the spring semester of the junior year must be completed before a student can begin their co-op.
- Applicants are required to indicate that they plan to do a co-op when submitting a one-year plan and should not apply for a co-op until the plan has been approved by their faculty advisor.
Students admitted to the Engineering Co-op Program are required to register for the courses:
- ME 3041 Industrial Assignment I (2 credits) (first co-op semester)
- ME 4043W Industrial Assignment II (4 credits) (second co-op semester)
Technical Elective Credits
The 4 credits from the second semester Industrial Assignment course may be applied towards the 9 required technical elective credits for the BAEM degree. Lower division technical elective credits will not be accepted in conjunction with technical elective credits for a co-op.
AEM Co-op Schedule
Students following the standard AEM 4-year plan can complete a co-op in one of two ways.
Option 1: Summer after junior year followed by fall of senior year.
Option 2: Fall of senior year followed by summer after senior year.
In both cases, students will need to take classes in the fall of their fifth year.
Students who are ahead of schedule with their classes may be able to create their own timelines for doing co-ops. In such cases students will need to contact the AEM Director of Undergraduate Studies for approval of their plan.
Why explore research opportunities?
Research provides undergraduate students the opportunity for mentorship with renowned faculty and graduate students, active learning, and a chance to create new knowledge while being challenged in new ways.
An advantage of attending a major research university is the number of opportunities for undergraduates to participate in research projects. These projects may be student-initiated or part of a faculty member's research program. There is often funding available, either directly to the student or through the faculty member. If you are going to graduate school a letter of recommendation from a faculty member for whom you have done a research project is probably the one of the best recommendations you can get.
Different Ways to Get Involved with Research
UROP: Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program
The UROP: Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program provides funds for you to do a semester of research with a faculty member. You must first find a faculty member to be your adviser and then write a proposal. Currently, almost all proposals are getting funded. Note that you cannot get class credit for UROP projects.
Undergraduate Research Scholarships (URS)
Undergraduate Research Scholarships (URS) are awarded by the Office of Admissions to incoming freshman. The URS provides awardees with funding for a research project while being mentored by a faculty member.
Faculty Research Projects
All faculty in the AEM Department have research programs. There are often opportunities for undergraduates to contribute to these programs. Faculty that do experiments and computations typically have the most opportunities, but you don't know until you ask. See what research interests you and contact the faculty member to discuss the possibilities.
The North Star STEM Alliance Program
The North Star STEM Alliance Program offers opportunities and programs aimed at helping students just like you to succeed academically by inviting you to be a member of the North Star STEM community. STEM areas include science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
NSF REU Program
National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates opportunities can be found using the NSF REU Search page. These are research opportunities that are funded by the National Science Foundation and are often attached to faculty research projects. Note that NSF encourages students to go to other schools for these, so the U of M REU's may not be your best choice. Applications should be directed to the individual sites and not NSF.
Directed Research: Getting Class Credit for Research
Directed Study/Directed Research allows students to design and carry out an independent project, working one-on-one with a faculty member for academic credit.
The courses AEM 4295, 4495, and 4595, which are all independent study courses, may allow you to get class credit for your research. You need a faculty adviser for these courses and you have to arrange with them what work will be required for a grade. These courses are offered every semester, including over the summer. These courses count as technical electives in the BAEM program, but you can only replace one technical elective with an independent study course.
AEM offers many opportunities outside the classroom. You can participate in group or one-on-one projects with a faculty member, get involved in undergraduate research, and gain hands-on experience in almost any field that interests you. The department supports a wide array of student teams.
How can aerospace engineering skills be used while still a student?
Find a project or competition to become involved with, like the AEM’s SAE student team - the Gophers - which took seventh place in the micro class division and third place in the written design report portion of the SAE Aero Design project below. They even received course credit for developing the plane in the department's Senior Design class.
Are there opportunities for community outreach?
YES! The High-Altitude Ballooning Team under the MnSGC worked with the students from nine local middle schools to deliver their payloads to the stratosphere, or "near-space." The payloads contained video and still cameras, flight computers, data loggers, accelerometers, and sensors to measure basic weather data, cosmic radiation levels, and solar panel output. This is just one of the many opportunities!
Minnesota Space Grant Consortium
The Minnesota Space Grant Consortium (MnSGC) is a University outreach program from NASA under AEM, which provides students with scholarships/fellowships, internships with NASA, and many other opportunities for involvement. Activities range from a Stratospheric Ballooning team and quadcopter design to high power rocketry competitions.
Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Laboratories
The UAV research group develops and implements world class, open-source, and low cost aeronautics research infrastructure. Research activities include control, navigation and guidance algorithms, embedded fault detection methods, and system identification tools.
The UAV Lab offers undergraduate and graduate students an opportunity to participate in real-world aircraft development and flight testing with the ultimate goal of enabling safer and more fuel efficient aircraft and UAVs.
The University of Minnesota Rocket Team brings together undergraduate students from a wide variety of majors to work together on the construction and launch of multiple high-powered rockets throughout the school year.
Team competitions include:
The Spaceport America Cup that takes place near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, is the team's main competition. In 2017, they competed in the Advanced 30,000 ft. target altitude division and they plan to continue to compete in this category in the years to come.
The Space Grant Midwest High-Power Rocketry Competition has worked on the Gopher Project - an inter-team project to teach incoming members how to build high power rockets and the High-Altitude Shot - a project to see how how the team could make a rocket fly.
The Big Ten Alka Rocket Challenge at the Space Center in Houston. The team set a Guinness record for the Highest Launch of a Rocket Powered by Effervescent Tablets in 2017 and took home a prize of $25,000.
The CanSat Competition is an annual event hosted by the American Astronautical Society (AAS) and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). The event provides valuable hands-on-experience managing the complete, end-to-end life cycle of a complex engineering project.
Alphadrone Team is all about going fast. Drone racing is the next up-and-coming sport/esport and Alphadrone has fully embraced the challenge of flying drones at high speeds. The Alphadrone pilots use special headsets to see the course from the perspective of the drone, allowing for incredible 3D maneuvers.
SAE Aero Design
The SAE Aero Design Competition is an opportunity for undergraduate and graduate engineering students to be exposed to the kinds of situations that engineers face in their real-life work environment.
There are three classes of competition - Regular, Advanced, and Micro. This year's team, The Flying Gophers, participated in the Micro Class, and had an objective of designing a light-weight, UAV-style aircraft. The Flying Gophers presented their design over three days of competition. The first day involved a detailed inspection of the aircraft to check design consistencies, the second day involved a presentation on design and testing details, and the last day involved six rounds of flight competition. The team finished the competition in ninth place out of twenty-four teams.
The AIAA Student Chapter organizes opportunities for students to learn outside the classroom, including student engineering projects, outreach events, laboratory tours, and presentations from industry professionals. The chapter also helps students develop connections with professionals and employers. AIAA is a national forum for professionals in the aerospace industry and the student chapter provides a similar mission of aligning students with interests in aerospace.
Solar Vehicle Project
The University of Minnesota Solar Vehicle Project was founded in 1990 by a group of undergraduate students from the University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering. The team has build thirteen solar vehicles since that time and is one of the most decorated teams in America.