During sixth form assembly, Mr. O'Hara announced the opportunity for students to participate in a Sentinus programme, known as 'Insight into Engineering', which looks into the various types of engineering professions. The event ran from 2nd- 5th December 2013, with one day at the University of Ulster, one day at Queen's University Belfast and two days on a work placement. I applied and was accepted for a placement with a company new to the scheme this year, Caterpillar.
The first day at the University of Ulster in Jordanstown began at 10:15am and consisted of talks about different engineering courses that the university offers. The Mechanical engineering talk was given by Dr Margaret Morgan, an accomplished professor who clearly loved her subject. The Clean Technology talk was given by Dr Patrick Lemoyne, who was full of energy, demonstrating his passion for the environment and for the future of clean technology and energy sources. With such gifted orators the day passed all too quickly. This day gave me an insight into the various engineering-related degrees that the University offers and a behind-the-scenes look of how the University would be in real life.
For the next two days, I visited Caterpillar's IT department, gaining an insight into what an engineering degree, would lead to in the working environment. I was with the other work placements individuals and we were taken to a Health and Safety Workshop to consider the importance of health and safety in the work place. We were also told about Caterpillar's policy to have a minute of silence, globally, if any fatalities occur within the workplace. This demonstrated how the company values their employees: in South Korea, for example, production will stop globally, and all employees (over 150,000) will stop work and have a minute's silence for the employee who lost their life.
After the Health and Safety talk, Noreen - a member of the IT department - gave me a mini-tour of her department. She showed me my day's itinerary, which covered every department within Caterpillar's IT sector. Because of the early 7.30 am start, we went to breakfast, a rather unusual experience for me because of the usual 8:45 AM start in my school. After breakfast, we went back to her department. Noreen showed me the server room, where Caterpillar is currently making some (top secret) changes. We then returned to Noreen's desk where she showed me what her role was within the company. When an employee in the company has a technical problem with their equipment, they file a 'ticket'. Noreen distributes the tickets among the staff who then attempt to remotely fix the problem.
Following this, I visited the desktop team, who deal with editing, loading and unloading software in the company's computers, along with re-imaging new devices with their custom software. This area could be likened to the popular TV show 'The IT Crowd', as this team work with countless numbers of software programs and fix thousands of problems, along with updating the entire area's hardware systems.
Following this, I visited the SAP team, a team dedicated to working with one specialist software that controls the entire company, from the factory worker to the CEO of the entire corporation. I also visited the department that specialises in fixing huge software problems, including debugging and various projects that could take months to fix. I was also lucky enough to get a tour of the Larne factory, where they make diesel generators that are shipped internationally, and got a sneak preview at the new hardware that they are to make at the facility.
On the second day, I was sent to the Belfast Head Quarters in order to get a better picture of the company. My contact here was Clare O'Neil, a fluent French Speaker and internal Web-Master. She gave me a small tour of the facility and then handed me over to Idrissi, the desktop coordinator for the Belfast facility. His job is to run all of the computers on the facility and, in a short time with Idrissi, I was able to learn so much about his job. , His rapport with almost every single person on the facility was amazing and he introduced me to the Director of Operations of Caterpillar in Northern Ireland and Europe, an American named Bob. Bob shook my hand and we spoke for a little while about the company. He was a really nice person, he didn't even introduce himself as the director, but simply as Bob. It wasn't until we left his office that Idrissi told me who he was.
Following this, I experienced another seven departments within the facility, including meeting with the service centre coordinator, KMITT, Account management team, programming team and lotus notes team. Everyone I met described their role to me and allowed me to ask many questions about their role. I was surprised to learn that some people had not gone to university, but were able to achieve an HND and gain experience through various training schemes to get to where they are today. I found this experience extremely enjoyable and I have learned a lot from the placement.
On the final day of the programme, I visited Queen's University Belfast, where I experienced various departments and their work. The day began with a talk from the head of the Electrical and Electronic Engineering department. Following this, I visited the 'lab' where approximately 40% of the course's classes are held. This was the highlight of my day as I was able to speak to the Head of department about the degree that I was interested in, Software and Electronic Systems Engineering, as well as meeting two robots, each costing the University £12,000. I was told that the university uses these robots and learning tools in classes, where students can learn how they work, through both the hardware and software aspects.
Throughout the day, I was able to visit various departments, including mechanical and aerospace engineering, civil engineering, chemical engineering and admissions. In each of these departments, I was able to see the top equipment that the university uses and gain an understanding of what each course is about.
I would very much like to encourage everyone who has a chance to attend the event to apply. I would also like to thank Mr. O'Hara for promoting and organising the event, as well as Dominic McCartan, Project Manager of the event in Sentinus.
Jack Devlin [Year 13]