One Co-op Student's Experience at MITRE

May 2014
Wyatt Bertorelli

For Northeastern University co-op student Wyatt Bertorelli, the hands-on learning environment at MITRE has given him real-world experience in developing computer hardware and software systems.

Co-ops are cooperative education programs that provide students with work opportunities—typically alternating periods of academic study with periods of employment—while attending college. MITRE has been home to co-op students from schools across the country since the 1970s.

Bertorelli is a combined electrical and computer engineering major at Northeastern. He's a "middler"—a third-year student in the five-year co-op program. He's been at MITRE for two co-op assignments, one in 2013 and another this year. He works within the National Security and Engineering Center, the federally funded research and development center MITRE operates for the Department of Defense.

Gaining Real Experience

"During my first co-op, I worked on developing software and was programming in MATLAB, Java, and C++," he says. "At the end of the six months, I had a great understanding of the development environment and had worked on several different components of a major project. I've always felt that I've gotten challenging work. That's why I asked to come back for my second co-op term."

He returned to MITRE for another six-month co-op in January 2014. "This time, I wanted to work on a project that focused on digital logic design [computer chip design] and hardware descriptive languages like Verilog and System Verilog. I asked my previous MITRE manager about it, and he recommended me to the appropriate department. I came in for an interview, and received an offer."

He appreciates the different opportunities he's had at MITRE. "This second co-op has given me practical experience in working on hardware and modeling digital circuitry on field programmable gate arrays [FPGA]."

Benefits on Both Sides

Shifting between the classroom and the research and development environment has been illuminating. "I gained exposure to working in the field using both software programming languages and hardware descriptive languages. Through that I learned that I'd like my focus in electrical and computer engineering to involve programming," Bertorelli says.

Brian McHugh, Bertorelli's team lead, says the program benefits both MITRE and the students. "MITRE's proximity to world-class colleges and universities allows us to draw from a pool of talented students, such as Wyatt, for our co-op/intern program. He's learning to implement digital signal processing components for a radar system. He's also made valuable contributions to the work program—we look forward to him continuing to learn and deliver quality products to the customer."

"The work environment at MITRE is great," Bertorelli says. "Everyone I've worked with has been a great resource to learn from. I also enjoy that the work I'm given allows me to apply the principles I learned in class. That's a great thing to be exposed to when I haven't even graduated yet."

——by Kay M. Upham