Brian Amundson: Engine power

Written by Susan Maas

Brian Amundson, a May 2016 mechanical engineering graduate, remembers the pride and satisfaction he felt one day toward the end of his co-op with MTS Systems Corporation, a global testing solutions company. He’d been working on designing a part for a road simulator that tests cars and trucks for durability: a flexure that sits, horizontally, on the actuator that controls the vertical bump force. The part’s predecessor had been plagued with maintenance problems.

“It had to absorb the reaction of that actuator firing, up to 50,000 pounds pushing or pulling, and it had to flex and bend,” Amundson said. His idea took months to perfect. About two weeks before his three-semester co-op ended, Amundson got to see his baby.

“The biggest highlight for me was when this flexure finally showed up—the machined steel part that was going to be tested,” Amundson said. “All the work I’d put in, and then, here is the part. That was really rewarding for me.”

That was last spring. A few months later, the fifth-year senior from Le Sueur, Minn. heard the part had survived its first round of testing. “They called it good,” Amundson said with a smile. He’s grateful for the experience. Even though Amundson will graduate a year later than he might have, “the experience you get in a co-op goes so far beyond what you’re able to get in the classroom.”

Amundson’s co-op was structured a little differently than many: He alternated semesters at the co-op, in classes, and then back at the co-op. “I was switching out with another [co-op] student,” Amundson explained.

Because he loves vehicles of all kinds, MTS was one of Amundson’s top choices for a co-op. “Driving has been my passion since I was 10 years old on a go-kart. Golf carts, jet skis, motorcycles, snowmobiles, you name it,” Amundson said. (He was cofounder and cochair of the U’s Clean Snowmobile Team.)

But he recalls when he left his interview at MTS, he thought he’d blown it. “To be honest, I thought that was my worst interview. I was pretty upset when I left,” Amundson said. “Most companies would do a resume run-through and go over the HR packet. The MTS interviewer handed you parts. They’d pick up a part that had failed on some machine, give you a little bit of background, and then say, how would you fix this? Which was really intimidating—especially as a sophomore.”

It was a growing experience, like the co-op itself. “I tell students all the time: Do a co-op. It makes you so much more marketable to employers. I had a phenomenal time at MTS,” he said.