A Day in the Life: Caterpillar STEM Student Trainee

July 10, 2023

Hello, my name is Allison V., and I’m a rising senior at the Johnston County Early College Academy where I am a part of the STEM program! I’m a member of my school’s math club, engineering club, volunteering club, mentoring club, and I’m a peer math tutor. I’m also a member of FIRST Robotics team 9008, G-Force Robotics, where I’m on the programming, build, and electrical teams. I enjoy working with technology, and I’m always interested to learn about new innovations, especially those in robotics. As I navigate the environment of engineering this summer, I’m excited to share my newfound knowledge and experiences with you!   

My first week at Caterpillar consisted of taking exciting tours, getting settled in, robot presentations, and jumping right into project work. I was given the opportunity to tour facilities in both Sanford and Clayton for a day, and it was really intriguing to see all the ways that Caterpillar incorporates robotics and autonomy into their assembly processes. Autonomous robots were constantly working in both facilities, and some of the ones in Sanford played music while they were moving to alert the workers around it! Alongside this, they used industrial-sized welding robots to assemble machine components and line following robots to do some of the heavy lifting. Overall, I was amazed to see just how many processes utilized robotics! After the cool factory tours in Sanford and Clayton, we were taken through the Clayton Machine Development Center labs and testing fields. There were multiple machines in action throughout the test fields and interesting equipment throughout the labs, as well as an always-working 3D printer. While all three facilities had something different going on, every one of them had a serious dedication to safety! Every employee and visitor wore the required PPE and stayed within designated areas to avoid unsafe incidents. Overall, being able to tour all the cool Caterpillar facilities in my area turned out to be a great learning experience. 

Halfway through my first week, my robotics team was invited to the CMDC for a celebratory lunch and tour. My team was given the opportunity to share a short presentation with the CMDC community. We talked about values, activities, and outreach within the team, and did a quick robot demonstration at the end. We were able to answer lots of questions and share more about what an all-girls robotics team looks like! By the end of my first week, I was familiar with most of the software I would be using and was assigned my first project. My first project consisted of kit instructions for the Windshield Washing Platform on small wheel loaders. I was tasked with examining the kit and developing my own way of assembling the parts and pieces in a way that made the most sense. During my drafting process, I had the opportunity to visit the assembly line where these kits were put on machines and hear about the process from the assemblers. Through this, I was able to draft and finalize the instructions for the kit, and get it submitted halfway through my second week. Now, fast forward to my fourth week here, I’ve been assigned multiple kits and another new project that I’m excited to be working on! So far, it’s been incredibly encouraging to have the support of other Caterpillar employees and the opportunity to complete meaningful work. I’m already looking forward to the weeks to come! 

Allison working on a robot