Crash testing aircraft batteries

Brielle in a small airborne plan. Smiling with a headset on.Brielle Chenier (she/her), a second-year Mechatronics Engineering student, shares her role working within a sustainable aircraft company along with the ups and downs of her co-op term.

Brielle’s second co-op term was spent at Beta Technologies, an electric aircraft company in Vermont, USA. She worked as a battery team mechanical engineering intern where she helped with testing batteries and worked on their study hall team which did demos that they show to people within and outside their company.  

About Brielle's experience

Main projects? Brielle standing in front of a small, grounded, colourful plane

One of Brielle’s bigger projects was at Beta Technologies where she was given the opportunity to do lots of crash testing on airplane battery packs.

“I got to set up a lot of the tests and help build the packs that we would use to test. We basically had sub-sections and then larger ones that we slammed into concrete walls.”

Brielle mentioned she has never done any sort of testing before, so she was not familiar with the procedure. However, she had other experienced employees helping her throughout the process.

Most challenging?

“I think finding co-ops is definitely challenging. I think everyone goes through the struggle of finding something, but then once I actually have the job I think it was learning when to ask questions.”

“When I was working with batteries, on the first day, one of my coworkers ran through how a battery works. This was a lot of information overload at first but by the end of the term I realized you can pick it up as you’re going.”

“So, sometimes there are good times for me to work and solve things independently and then propose a solution. And then other times, it’s better to ask if I’m lost or don’t have the necessary background.”

What has been the biggest highlight?

Brielle with her friends wearing purple sunglasses, face paint, and shirts"Getting to meet with a lot of cool people. With Beta, they have a lot of smart and experienced people working in different fields. Getting to hear their stories and how they ended up as engineers was really cool.”  

Brielle explained she also felt co-op was very rewarding for her.  

“When I run the tests, I’m able to reference them, and then it influences company decisions.”

“Some of the other testing I did was to see what current batteries would short circuit. When we were having a discussion, I would be like, ‘Hey, these are my results, and you want to reference them.”

What did you enjoy about your company’s culture?

“I really enjoyed that I got a lot of freedom. So, if I expressed interest in a project, then I got to work on it.”

Brielle ended up helping with the demo team, which she wasn’t originally supposed to work on.  

“I started showing up to their meetings and they’re like, ‘You’re welcome to help, and they could use the help,’ so that was really cool.”

Implementing learnings from study terms into co-op roles

Brielle standing with a group of people in safety vests Brielle is on the Waterloo Aerial Robotics Group (WARG), a design team here at the University of Waterloo. She was able to gain a lot of experience building things that will fly, which further helped her in Beta Technologies.

“Even though there's this different scale, a plane still has similar concepts. And there's still the basic stuff like circuits, like how they apply to batteries, and knowing the fundamentals is really helpful. All our design courses, of course, play into that too.”

How did you stay organized during your work term?

“Since it was very open, I had to create a schedule for myself. I tried to make to-do lists every day and then also schedule weekly check-ins with my co-workers.”

“It was a good time. If he was busy during the week, that was one point where I could ask all my questions and give an update on what I was working on.”

Brielle with a view of mountains, trees and a lake.Advice for first-year co-op students?

“Be willing to go into a company not knowing a bunch and be willing to learn. Especially for my first term, I learned a ton.”

“And even if you think you might not be qualified for it, you’ll definitely learn on the job, and they don’t expect you to know everything going in. Ask questions whenever you’re confused, and they’ll appreciate that.”

Future plans

Brielle wants to work in other sustainable fields in the future and she was able to secure a position at Tesla Motors on their battery team for her next co-op term!