7/14/14

Former intern Naoki turns Great Lakes buoy experience into offshore power development

It’s been two years since we launched our summer internship program, and we couldn’t be happier with the results. Our interns did great things at IISG—educated boaters on AIS prevention, investigated community perceptions of sediment remediation projects, installed a real-time buoy in Lake Michigan, and more. But this impressive work didn’t stop at the end of the summer. Several are now in graduate programs, including law school. Some moved on to internships focused on Great Lakes monitoring and renewable engineering. And a few have even stayed at IISG. 

To celebrate the program’s two-year anniversary, we go back to where it all began with a four-part series showcasing our first round of interns—what they did and where they are now. The series wraps up with Naoki Wada.  

What did you work on while interning with IISG?
During my internship, I led a project that resulted in the first-ever nearshore real-time weather observation buoy in Indiana’s Lake Michigan waters. Data from the Michigan City buoy is used for research, educational, and weather alert purposes. I was responsible for configuring, testing, deploying, operating, and recovering the buoy in 2012. I also developed a user manual to ensure proper buoy operations in the future.

What did you like most about your internship?
I was responsible for the whole project—from configuration of the internal system and construction of the mooring structure to deployment and later retrieval in preparation for winter storage. It was a great learning experience with a lot of trial and error. I learned how to manage a project and gained knowledge of various technical features and techniques. The experience also taught me that it's ‘ok’ that I don't know everything. There are always ways to figure it out. Also, I liked that the effort was not for the sake of learning, like in school, but to help someone and society. 

What are you doing now?
I am a graduate student in mechanical and ocean engineering at University of California at Berkeley. My primary interest is the development of offshore floating wind power, for which the experiences and knowledge gained as an IISG intern has proven highly useful. This summer, I am also interning as a renewable energy consultant at an engineering service company in San Francisco called Black & Veatch. My main task is to conduct production estimates for large-scale solar power plants to verify the feasibility of the proposed projects.  

As you can tell, I am very interested in engineering and renewable energy. I am interested in both the technical and non-technical aspects of these fields and am trying to find the way I can best contribute to the worldwide effort to develop renewable energy. 

How did your time with IISG help prepare you for your graduate program and internship?
The experiences I had as an IISG intern is obviously highly relevant to what I am studying in graduate school. Through the internship, I learned how difficult it was to develop and deploy a small observation buoy and what kind of tasks and processes were involved. Because these same processes generally apply to other floating structures, including offshore floating wind platforms, I know I will use the knowledge I gained at IISG throughout my graduate program. 

Also, the project management skills I learned will be useful as I move into industry. It is similar in that there will be a product or deliverable that has to be created on a limited budget and time frame. Knowing how to plan ahead is always important because things can definitely go wrong unexpectedly. 

What advice would you have for future IISG interns or those considering applying?
One experience and summer can lead to bigger opportunities in many ways. Even if you’re not 100 percent sure what you will do in the future, just go for it if it’s the type of thing that you might like. Commit to the opportunities in front of you and the path will follow. 
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For the latest information on fellowship and internship opportunities, visit our fellowship page regularly.

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