UT Pan American engineering student makes Intel internship true learning experience
Posted: 11/17/1998
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Rafael Montelongo, an engineering student at The University of Texas-Pan American, was scheduled to return to school at the end of the summer in 1997 after a five-week internship at Intel Corp.

Rafael Montelongo

The only problem was, Intel didn't want to let him go.

A senior mechanical engineering major from Reynosa, Mexico, Montelongo was to see his five-week internship turn into a nine-month learning experience at Intel locations in Oregon and Puerto Rico.

He spent the majority of his time working with the company's Internet Communications Group.

"The task at hand was to develop and implement the back-end packaging process at Intel Puerto Rico," he said.

Instead of computer parts destined for inclusion in other company's final products, the Puerto Rico plant was building and packaging networking products ready for shipment to distribution points, like large chain stores, for direct sale to the public.

In shipping directly for sale, accuracy in the packaging of the final product is of greater concern, Montelongo said.

A core team of Intel engineers was selected to develop the process, but Montelongo found himself in charge of the implementation of it.

"The team that developed it was what they call a 'tiger team,' basically a group of engineers that went to Puerto Rico, and we actually sat down and thought of this process," he said. "Now, during that stage, most of the members of the team were from Oregon, engineers who had been with the company for a number of years, and it was very hard for them to be traveling from Oregon to Puerto Rico on a weekly or on a daily basis.

"Basically, they said, 'We want you to head this project,' what they call 'drive the issue,' and I agreed."

Montelongo was scheduled to be in Puerto Rico for 10 weeks to implement the process in time to meet a deadline to start packaging the products.

"It was successful, but I only got to celebrate for a couple of hours," he said, because he was drafted for another project.

Intel Puerto Rico was to begin manufacturing video conference equipment called ProShare.

"Packaging Ethernet cards is pretty simple, because the product has at most only five or six pieces. When you come to video conferencing, you have this item that has 21 to 25 pieces, from the cameras to literature and pamphlets.

"We had to enhance the process we developed, plus adapt and restructure the product to accommodate the new process. We had five to 10 weeks to do it, because the new product was on back-order and they were requiring it."

When Montelongo returned to the Oregon location, he gave presentations to the entire department.

"The group wanted to show it as an accomplishment for that quarter," he said.

After that, his next assignment was to create a computer program that would predict "beat rates" - the number of computer cards or boards that could be manufactured in an hour - while the product was still in the design phase.

Montelongo, who finally returned to UT Pan American to finish his studies last summer, spent four internships at Intel during his college career.

"I was recruited (this year) for these manufacturing tasks, but in my previous internships at Intel I've done programming, I've done a little manufacturing engineering, I've done electrical (engineering), I did customer service, and I created a web page back before they were so popular."

During his last internship, he contributed something to Intel that will last far after his graduation - the back-end packaging system in Puerto Rico for the video teleconferencing products may become an industry standard.

"It became so good that Intel is thinking of testing it and writing what they call a 'white paper' so it can become the 'Best Known Method.' That would say a lot - it would be the best known method in the industry."

Montelongo's internships were apparently a positive experience for both himself and Intel - after graduation, he accepted a position with the company at its Hillsboro, Ore., main headquarters.

Bill MacKenzie, an Intel spokesman in Oregon, said Montelongo's experience reinforces the company's commitment to internships.

"It's a pleasure to see that his internship was rewarding," MacKenzie said. "Intel is a big believer in internships, and we're encouraged by such success stories."