Kettering University student says co-op experience allowed him to grow passion for engineering

Jack Miller ‘20 always knew he wanted to be an engineer and the co-op experience at Kettering University allowed him to get a better understanding of what that really means.

Miller was given hands-on experiences throughout his time at Kettering that allowed him to explore his passion. Currently Miller is completing his co-op at Kawasaki Engines in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

“I test engines of small agricultural vehicles to make sure the engines are compatible with the machine. It’s very hands-on. Every day I’m working on an engine of some kind,” said Miller, a Mechanical Engineering major at Kettering. “Being able to work hands-on is more immersing to me than just sitting at a desk. And it’s a great way to pair my in class education with real work experience.”

For Miller, working with small engines is very natural for him. He grew up on a cattle farm and his family currently owns a blueberry farm.

Now with this real world experience, he is able better understand and learn about the engines’ mechanics.

“I love learning about the physics side of how an engine works. It’s great being able to understand how something can create that type of power and speed with simple mechanics and to understand the static and mechanical physics of the stress and strain and how much an engine can take,” Miller said.

Being able to have a co-op experience has taught Miller many life lessons already. He learned how important safety is and it’s important to ask people for help when you need it.

“I learned how to handle myself in a professional environment. It helped me to not have any fear going into a new environment,” Miller said. “Having that experience helps you to be able to adapt quickly and teaches you to understand new situations before trying to find solutions. You are then able to create your own solutions and be able to adapt if there isn’t a solution on hand.”

Another unique co-op opportunity Miller had while at Kettering was at Kimley Horn in West Palm Beach, Fla., where he was able to use his problem-solving skills in a completely different way -- by recreating accidents.

“I’ve always enjoyed the design aspect of engineering. It was a cool way to use the skill,” Miller said. “But I honestly didn’t know this type of work at Kimley Horn existed. You work so many different situations every day.”

At that co-op Miller worked with accident reconstruction to determine whether or not a client is liable for a car accident or product failure accident.

“When I thought of engineering problem solving I initially thought about fixing situations with a certain amount of supplies or making vehicles faster,” Miller said. “With that job it felt like a detective aspect to engineering. It was different way of thinking. You’re looking at a situation in hindsight.”

“Another aspect of the job was being able to apply yourself quickly to a fast paced schedule. At my workplace they expect that kind of mindset,” Miller said. “You’re probably not going to learn that by going to a traditional college.”

Just into his freshman year at Kettering and Miller was able to dive right into the engineering career field.

It was that opportunity that brought him to Kettering in the first place.

“I know the work environment. I’m not going in with a rookie sense of fear of screwing up or wondering what’s expected of me,” Miller said. “I know how to work and hit the ground running.”

He’s also learned to double check his work and pay attention to detail, while realizing at a young age that it was necessary to understand responsibilities and to handle situations at work with such gravity.

Miller learned that his actions at work and in the classroom were important. By having the co-op experience he felt like he was already ahead of the game.

“You have over two years in the field by the time you graduate, which beats anyone who’s just coming out of college and is just now starting in the field,” Miller said.

Miller’s time at Kettering will help him for wherever his careers take him in the future.

“The pace of learning and the ability to learn quickly and apply it as quickly as possible is something from Kettering I will use for the rest of my life,” he said.