CIS Abroad Blog

My Summer Impact | Virtual Intern Blog from Ecuador

Like most people, my summer plans were thrown completely off course because of the coronavirus

I am going to be a junior at Stevens Institute of Technology, where I study Biomedical Engineering, and this was going to be my summer to figure out if I actually like engineering as a potential career path. I thought I was going to be unable to get any real-world experience in my field, that is until I got an email about the virtual internship program with CIS Abroad.

I was really excited to get the chance to work with CIS Abroad again

I spent the summer of 2019 studying Spanish in Barcelona, Spain through a CIS Abroad program. When I applied for the Virtual Internship program, I didn’t know what type of position I would get or if it would even apply to my major, but I decided that it was better than nothing. I wound up being placed with a company based in Quito, Ecuador called Robots Crate.

Madison's Work from home setup

My WFH setup

On my first day, my supervisor, Diego, introduced himself and said “Here are some projects we are working on, which one would you like to be a part of?” I was surprised immediately by the amount of autonomy my partner and I were given to choose a project. We decided to work on a project that was in the very beginning stages of development: designing and developing robotic prosthetic ears for people with microtia. Microtia is a condition where a person is born without the outer part of their ear.

Before starting this project, I had never heard of microtia, and I knew a minimal amount about making prosthetics. We began by researching the problem and getting a better understanding of what prosthetic options currently exist and what we need to create. At the beginning of our second week of the internship, Diego basically said “Okay, I would like to see some sample designs for robotic prosthetic ears. Go.” Again, I was really surprised by the fact that we were given so much freedom to design and create however we’d like.

a picture of a wired frame ear, which is a sample design for a robotic prosthetic ear for Madison's virtual internship

My sample design for the robotic prosthetic ear

Over the course of the summer, we generated initial designs and presented them to various people within the microtia community, and then used the feedback to create initial prototypes. It has been a lot of fun to get to see the design process in action, and I genuinely feel like I have contributed to the larger project and to a larger issue as well. We have received so much positive feedback from the microtia community, and it has been amazing to be a part of a project that is having an impact on real lives.

I came into this summer with no expectations, and yet somehow the experience exceeded my expectations anyways

I have always wanted to have an impact, and my summer experience has been an amazing opportunity to create and learn. I had opportunities to practice my language skills, work with people in a completely different culture, and see the design process in action. Because of this experience, I have decided that I actually like engineering and want to pursue it as a career. I am extremely grateful for this opportunity and have loved every step of the process.