Dalhousie University student discovers new career interest during co-op term with DRDC

January 24, 2024

 

Dalhousie University electrical engineering student Tristan Batchelor describes his experiences during a co-op term with Defence Research and Development Canada's Atlantic Research Centre in the fall of 2023.

Three people work on a yellow autonomous vehicle on the deck of a boat at sea. The vehicle is shaped like a torpedo and is about 1.5 metres long.

Dalhousie University electrical engineering student Tristan Batchelor (on the left) worked on retrieving an underwater autonomous vehicle this fall with DRDC Atlantic Research Centre. Credit: Steve Berry / Defence Research and Development Canada

My time as an electrical engineering student at Defence Research and Development Canada's Atlantic Research Centre (ARC) was truly exceptional. There is such a large amount of interdisciplinary work and research being done that it offers students the flexibility to either delve deep into their specific interests or explore diverse career paths. Initially, I had a choice of projects to work on that were relevant to my field but as I got to learn about the various sections and sub-sections within ARC, I took an interest in a group working with autonomous vehicles and was able to easily shift my primary project to be within that group. Though working with autonomous vehicles wasn't initially on my academic radar, the sheer enjoyment I found in the experience has reshaped my perspective, and I can now envision it as a potential future career.

Working with DRDC offers the incredible benefit of being surrounded by individuals deeply passionate about their work. The organization boasts a wealth of scientists, engineers, and technologists, each possessing a diverse range of expertise. As a student, tapping into this pool of knowledge was invaluable for both aiding in assigned projects and enriching personal understanding. Collaborating with others on problem-solving was always an engaging experience, fostering a sense of active participation rather than mere task assignment. Weekly presentations by scientists, delving into their ongoing work or topics within their expertise, played a pivotal role in providing context for the intricacies of research and development, highlighting the non-linear nature of this professional path.

Two people look at a laptop, while standing on the deck of a boat at sea.

A co-op term with DRDC’s Atlantic Research Centre included hands-on experience retrieving an underwater autonomous vehicle for Dalhousie University electrical engineering student Tristan Batchelor (on the right). Credit: Steve Berry / Defence Research and Development Canada

I also found numerous chances to gain hands-on experience, a crucial aspect of our academic journey. Whether actively participating in fabricating designs or testing hardware in real-world scenarios, the thrill of seeing your ideas, designs, or software come to life was consistently exciting. One example of this was getting to go out to find and recover an autonomous underwater vehicle that was behaving strangely. During this task, I got to test some of my software I had to developed, as well as get a chance to see how a vehicle is launched and recovered, and perform some inspection and diagnostic techniques to locate the source of the behaviour.

I think the opportunities afforded by DRDC during a student's work term extend beyond shaping and refining academic interests; they serve as a catalyst for expanding both professional and academic networks. This exposure not only sets the stage for future academic pursuits but also lays a solid foundation for career-based opportunities and experiences.

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