ACEP Utility Student Intern Shares Summer Experience in Interview

ACEP Utility Student Intern Shares Summer Experience in Interview

Ten utilities across Alaska participated in the first ACEP utility student internship program, funded by the Office of Naval Research. ACEP’s Tonya Evans recently had a chance to sit down with UAA civil engineering senior Arianna Sosnowski and ask some questions about her summer internship in Buckland.

Tonya Evans: Tell me about staying in Buckland.
Arianna Sosnowski: I stayed with the mayor of Buckland and his wonderful family for a couple weeks then I lived in the “man camp” which became a “woman camp” when the construction workers left because I was the only one there. Ha ha.

TE: Tell me what a day was like working for the Buckland utility.
AS: In the mornings, I helped Doreen file paperwork in the office, and after lunch I had taken on a project, thanks to Eric, the water treatment plant operator. The WTP has its own array of solar panels, which help power the WTP, but a lot of the panels and microinverters were broken. So, thanks to the help of Eric, Sonny, Brandon and Travis, we were able to get almost all of them back up and running!

TE: Who did you interact with generally?
AS: In the office, I would say good morning in Inupiaq to Mona, Leah, Doreen, who I worked in the office with. After lunch, I would go over to the WTP and work with Eric, Brandon, Sonny and Travis. Sometimes Tim would come in with work for me to do, such as check the wind turbines and the power lines to them. After work, a lot of the kids would come over and want to play. After tag or hide and seek, I ended up teaching a lot of them math. I love math and love teaching it, so I had a lot of fun. After work, Tim would invite me to check the net with him and his daughters. He had a little boat that we would take upriver and pick pike (siilik is the Inupiaq name), salmon and trout from the nets. When it was sunny, I would go to the beach with Rudy or Thomas, and, when it was berry-picking time, Travis would take me up to the hillside to pick blueberries with Esther. So I interacted with a lot of people.

TE: What did you learn?
AS: Besides learning a lot of the language, how to cut fish and cook suvaak [fish eggs], I learned how to connect microinverters, how to check if solar panels are working, and how to run the ABB interface to monitor the array.

TE: How will you use this knowledge in your future career?
AS: The most valuable knowledge I learned with this internship was independence. At times there wasn't anything to do, and I had to come up with my own projects or work. Eric definitely jump-started my work with the WTP solar panels, but I kinda ran the project, contacting the companies, deciding what needed to be done and how to fix it. Every month, I also had to present my work to the council, which was a big step for me. As an engineer, you have to present your plan — or what you did — to not only your company but also to citizens. I have stage fright, so being able to present my work to the council every month helped work on that fear. Also, it gave me a sense of professionalism.

TE: What do you think the utility got out of having you as an intern?
AS: I hope I made an impact and bettered the WTP with my work on the solar panels. I also hope to go back and visit in a couple years to see how the BoxPower array is doing. I think I did make an impact, though, as the City of Buckland staff wrote me a letter that said, "Our special thanks to you for the wonderful intern job with our solar panels and wind turbines. The time and effort you put in were certainly worthwhile."

TE: Would you recommend other students do an internship?
AS: Absolutely. It was an amazing experience and I had so much fun. I could go on and on about my experience and everything I did there, but I don't think it does any of it justice, so I would recommend other students to do this internship to experience it for themselves.

For more information on this program, please contact Heike Merkel at


ACEP utility student intern Arianna Sosnowski stands near the solar-powered BoxPower energy systems in Buckland. Photo courtesy of Arianna Sosnowski.