Amanda Prescott '18: pursuing a career in reliability engineering

Physics major forges her own applied physics track.

  • Year: Class of 2018
  • Major: Physics
  • Internship: Allard Engineering
  • Next steps: Reliability engineer, Naval Undersea Warfare Center following graduation

Amanda Prescott '18 is a senior who has forged her own track through the physics program, taking full advantage of the other departments in the College of Engineering. The Physics Department is now developing multiple formal applied physics tracks for incoming students to consider, in collaboration with other engineering departments.

Prepared for work in the field

After transferring into the Physics Department at UMass Dartmouth, Amanda wanted to get involved in applied physics and to continue to build on her engineering associates degree. She took full advantage of the opportunity to get involved in the College of Engineering’s senior design projects, working with an interdisciplinary team of electrical and mechanical engineering students on an industrial problem submitted by a local company. The project involved designing, constructing, and testing a working prototype of a novel vertical axis wind turbine.
 
The project was divided into three modules, each involving teams of about six students. Since Amanda's physics background and skill set directly applied to the understanding and creation of the generator subsystem, this was the module she worked on as the team leader. Over the course of the year, her team worked on optimizing the coil and magnet configuration in an effort to achieve the goal of a kilowatt range power—a significant output for this type of generator.

Through countless hours of testing, designing experiments, hand-winding coils, and late nights at the lab, the team managed to increase—and eventually double—the power output, through repeated testing and recognizing patterns in the output signal. By understanding the correlation between the placement of the coils, the number of magnets, and the voltage signal produced, they were able to make decisions on design changes that pushed the project forward.

Allard Engineering's senior intern

Upon the conclusion of the project at the end of academic year, Amanda was offered an internship position at Allard Engineering, the company sponsor of the Vertical Axis Wind Turbine project, in order to continue the work on the design and construction of the generator.

As the senior intern at Allard Engineering, she continued research and development, as well as leading and training a small team of engineering students in the further testing of the generator system. David Allard offered Amanda a role as a permanent partner in the small company in recognition of her involvement in the design process from the beginning, and of her vision and dedication to the continued development of the wind turbine. As the head of R&D for the vertical axis wind turbine, Amanda continues to hire and work with engineering students to push the progress of the generator while she completes her undergraduate degree in physics.
 
Amanda has recently been offered a position in Reliability Engineering at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center in Newport, RI after graduation—a position that directly encompasses her skills and motivations in a highly technical environment.

She said, "None of this would have occurred without my involvement in the College of Engineering senior design project and without the encouragement of the Physics Department which has supported my multidisciplinary curriculum and as well as my personal growth all of which has allowed me to follow my interests and develop my skills."

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