Students Land Work with Flying Car Company

September 18, 2018

A flying car is pictured in the sky

The Transition, a flying car made by local company Terrafugia, is one of the projects on which Wentworth students and alumni have been working. 

Did you say flying cars?

That’s right. Cars that fly and drive on roads, too.

Terrafugia, a company that’s producing the vehicles, says its new Transition will come to market in 2019, while work proceeds on a second model, a piloted hybrid electric aircraft called the TF-2.

Wentworth Institute of Technology has a link to the company’s plans; students and recent grads of the university are combining their work there with their education to build some career success of their own.

William Whelan, Mechanical Engineering ’18, worked as a Terrafugia co-op in fall 2017 and later accepted a full-time position with the company. He has seen the company grow from a dozen employees to hundreds.

As a co-op, Whelan collected and analyzed data during flight testing.

“We tested prototypes to expose the model to a huge range of temperatures, and analyze how different environments affect flying,” said Whelan.

A typical work day involved two to three hours of flight testing followed by in-depth inspections.

“This company is filled with innovative people,” said Whelan. “[The product] is unfamiliar territory to everyone, so we are always able to find unique solutions to unique problems.”

Austin Arena, Mechanical Engineering ’18, was also a co-op in fall 2017 who like Whelan earned a full-time job at Terrafugia. He has worked as a manufacturing engineer, completing jig fixtures and creating vehicle designs.

The startup culture gave Arena the opportunity to do everything he wanted during his co-op. He was able to interact with people of varying backgrounds daily and learn from all of them.

“There is a lot to do, considering the nature of the company—it has a self-starter culture,” said Arena. “But it is a huge plus to have knowledgeable people in every corner.”

By the end of his co-op, Arena worked with an internal combustion engine and generator, learning about design specifications on his own, through texts his manager provided.

“I had to learn before I started tackling a problem. It was nerve-wracking,” he said. “I made a theory, followed through, and hoped I was going down the right path.”

Raymond Jenks, Mechanical Engineering ’19, was a Terrafugia co-op in spring 2017, working with employees in modeling and manufacturing. He said his favorite project involved working with 3-D printing, something he’d done as a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at Wentworth. Jenks worked with a 6 x 3-foot model.

“It was my first time building a huge model. It went through four peer reviews and two meetings,” he said. “The design classes I took (at Wentworth) helped, as well as the teachers who pushed students to work on simulations.”

--Sumya Mohiuddin 

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