Andrew Matzik at work in one of Penn State Altoona's EMET labs

Preparing now for future defense

Andrew Matzik's internship at Northrop Grumman helped prepare him to one day develop national security systems to defend our country.
By: Marissa Carney

When Andrew Matzik was trying to decide what college to attend and what he should major in, he had a hard time choosing between electrical engineering and mechanical engineering. Once the Altoona native discovered that Penn State Altoona offers the best of both worlds with its electro-mechanical engineering technology program, he was sold.

“What I love about this program is that I get a number of different experiences in different fields. We do really cool labs and projects and a lot of hands-on work. I really enjoy that.”

Last fall, Matzik went to Career Days at University Park to check out available internships. Interested in a career as a systems engineer, he spoke with representatives from Northrop Grumman, a global aerospace and defense technology company. The recruiter thought there was a perfect position with the company for Matzik, and a month later, he was hired as a hardware engineering intern. The internship lasted throughout the summer at the company’s Baltimore location.

Northrop Grumman bids on global contracts, and Matzik was often in charge of developing 3D models to present to potential clients, such as the Department of Defense, that could help win those contracts. On one project where Northrop had to scale down a design to present, Matzik was tasked with constructing circuit boards and a box to house them. He further had to make sure everything was clean-looking and the circuit boards fit properly within the box.

Matzik also helped develop the mechanical side of radar systems that are placed on airplanes or used on the ground to detect missiles and other aircraft. He also worked on test fixtures for the radar systems. “My favorite project was developing tooling to put a gimbal assembly together. On the bottom of fighter planes, there are cameras and radar that use gimbals to rotate. That was something new for me—I had never developed tooling before. I had to learn very quickly what to do and how to manufacture the parts correctly.”

Matzik was thrilled with all of the responsibility given to him at Northrop Grumman.

“I wasn't treated just as an intern, rather I was part of the team. They trusted my designs and trusted that I was going to do the work and do it well. That gave me real world experience. I wasn’t necessarily working on high-risk projects, but I was helping the company progress. There was always an abundance of work, and I was able to do different things every day.”

Matzik says the internship taught him that he can succeed in a different environment. I grew up in Altoona, I'm going to college in Altoona. It was good to get away from everything I'm comfortable with and move to a big city in a different state. It was a good experience for me to see who I am as a person and what it is like living on my own, away from family. That experience was equal to the experience I got working.”

Something else Matzik was able to garner from this internship is that he definitely wants to do work for the Department of Defense as a systems engineer, developing national security systems to protect our country. “I did some other internships with smaller businesses, but Northrop Grumman was huge. I learned how to function in that kind of atmosphere, and I found that I really liked it.”

At the end of the internship, Matzik received a review. Supervisors were so pleased with his work that they extended him a job offer upon his graduation. He says he is considering it, but also looking at some other options.

From classes and labs at Penn State Altoona to involvement in the college’s Leadership for Life program and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Matzik believes he was well prepared for success at Northrop Grumman. “I realized during my internship that in this field, I always have to be able to explain ideas and processes to co-workers and clients. Often times, not all of the members on the team I was working with were engineers so I had to break down for them what I was doing.” Matzik says his courses laid the foundation for him to really know his craft and then simplify it for others as well as write reports concisely and clearly. He says his extracurricular activities boosted his ability to communicate confidently and effectively.

Matzik will graduate in December and is optimistic for his future. “I know that I can apply everything I have learned. I can go anywhere and my skill set will be welcomed and valued.”

To learn more about internships, please contact Tom Shaffer, academic internship coordinator, at [email protected] or 814-949-5789.