This Top 100 Intern is Working on Next-Gen Robotics

October 23, 2020

Meet Pedram S., a software engineering intern in Sparks, NV who was selected as a “Top 100 Intern in the US” by WayUp, a job website for recent college grads. He started interning with SNC this year in the midst of the pandemic, but managed to impress the team with his work on the robotics for the DARPA Subterranean (SubT) competition. We caught up with Pedram virtually to talk about what it's like to intern at SNC – and how it's shaping his future.

Where did you grow up?
I was born outside of the United States but my family immigrated to the U.S. when I was 15 years old. I do consider Reno my hometown as I’ve spent most of my time in the U.S. here in Reno, Nevada. I graduated from Robert McQueen High School and almost everyone I know lives here in Reno.

Where do you go to college?
Currently, I am pursuing a Bachelor of Science at the University of Nevada, Reno.

What's your major?
Computer Science and Engineering with emphasis on Unmanned Autonomous Systems and Applied Mathematics.

How did you get your internship at SNC?
It was pretty difficult actually. I’ve always heard about how competitive SNC is and how everyone in the engineering department (not just computer science) wants to work for SNC. I’ve been going to the career fair at UNR and dropping my resume at the SNC booth since I was a freshman in college. I never even had the opportunity to interview until my senior year when I finally got a chance to interview for an internship position. This was during the pandemic so everything was done remotely, but thankfully I was able to convince my manager Jon D. and my mentor and the lead engineer Andy S., that I was a good fit so I finally got a chance to join SNC.

What’s something that you’ve learned while at SNC? What projects have you worked on at SNC?
I’ve learned more at SNC than I have in my four years of college! I came here with elementary knowledge of everything that was being done for the particular programs I was assigned. For my first team/project, I joined the DARPA Subterranean (SubT) project. My mentor Andy taught me a lot about robotics, and how to get started on everything. I’ve learned about robotic coordination and planning, autonomous mapping and path planning with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), graph search and navigating through an environment using GPS, stereo-vision and many more robotics related topics.

I’ve also worked on the SPN-46 project with Gary M. who I consider to be my second mentor at SNC. I worked on a lot of low-level hardware related tasks that I haven’t had much familiarity with but with Gary guiding me and teaching me, I came to really understand everything and enjoy the work I do for this project.

Were you surprised to be named one of the top 100 interns in the United States?
It was very surprising for me to find out that they selected me as one of the top 100 interns in the United States. Apparently, someone has to nominate you (I still don’t know who that person was) and then they reach out to ask about your current internship. Because of the nature of the work I am doing, I made sure to only provide the committee with the name of the company and the general info that is accessible on the public website. I didn’t expect to be selected since I didn’t really provide much about the work at my internship, but they got to hear how excited I was and how great SNC treats the interns in the company.

Would you recommend this experience to other interns?
I definitely will. The thing that people need to know is that the University Recruiting team does everything they can to help the interns succeed. From what I understood during our multiple meetings with the University Recruiting team, you will even be given the opportunity to switch projects and teams if you feel like that you want to explore other areas within SNC.

It sounds like you really enjoyed the teams you worked with. How did they help to shape your intern experience?
As I explained my teams, especially my mentors, taught me a lot about the work and software engineering in general. I’ve always had a general plan, which was to get a degree, get out of school and get any software engineering positions that I could get my hands on. But my team showed me that there are lots of interesting topics out there that I have never heard of. That made me actually reconsider my plans for the future. Now I know that I want to work in the defense and space industry and I know that I like doing research. I no longer want a “general” software engineering position and I want to pursue projects that actually interest me instead. In a way, this internship gave me a clear idea that I want to pursue a particular field of software engineering career. I am even considering graduate school in aerospace engineering so I can get more involved with the space portion of SNC in the future!

Do you hope to keep working at SNC after your internship ends?
If the opportunity presents itself, I certainly do want to keep working at SNC. I found my passion when I started working here so I hope I can continue pursuing my passion while working here as well.

Anything else you’d like to add?
Just wanted to add that the recruiting team, especially Abby H., have been really helpful to all the interns. We’ve had a lot of great meetings where we got a chance to talk about the company, different areas and how to succeed at what we do. They were also really helpful with the onboarding. I had one of the smoothest onboarding experiences that I could imagine. I honestly believe that although the team I work with and the work I do at SNC is what made me love this job/internship, it was the University Recruiting team that made this internship possible. They were always there to answer every question that we’ve had and to help us succeed at what we do.


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