What makes internships at Altaeros Energies so cool? Three words: Flying wind turbines.
Altaeros is developing high-altitude wind turbines that would float on balloon-like, helium-filled fabric shrouds to generate power from the strong, steady winds high in the atmosphere. Interns are playing a major role in this big idea; in fact, half of the 10 workers in this start-up are interns.
“They’re actually doing some of the coolest parts of the design,” said Altaeros cofounder Adam Rein.
Tucked into a warehouse in Boston’s Innovation District along the waterfront, Altaeros doesn’t offer the kind of perks that a big tech company might. The start-up only pays a modest stipend, and there are no ping-pong tables, professional chefs, or masseuses on site. One of job’s requirements: Getting things done on a shoestring budget.
But for interns like Santosh Kumar, a 26-year-old recent graduate of the University of Michigan, the opportunity to develop a revolutionary technology aimed at bringing electricity to remote villages cut off from the power grid is well-worth the bare-bones amenities.
Recently, Kumar painstakingly scraped glue over the joints of a pink foam model that looked something like a beehive with a hole punched through it. The model, a scale version of the ballon-like shroud that must stabilize the turbines in high winds, will be extensively tested in wind tunnel experiments.
Other interns are designing internal electronics that will convert the movement of the blades into electricity, which is sent back to earth through a tether.
Molly Farison, a 21-year-old electrical engineering major at Needham’s Olin College, is an intern on the electronics team. Farison said she is reaching far beyond her studies.
“The most challenging thing is, it’s really open-ended,” Farison said. “A lot of things are unknown, so you have to ask the right questions or you might miss something.”
Interns at Altaeros must have strong science and engineering backgrounds. Kumar worked on a solar car team in college, and Farison previously worked at NASA, where she designed a power supply board for a sounding rocket.
A passion for renewable energy also helps. But ultimately, as with many internships, it’s all about the overall compatibility.
“I was looking for electrical engineering, in a start-up, in Boston, in renewable energy,” Farison said, laughing. “So, this really fit the bill for me.”