Charles Feng benefits from D3M project
Charles Feng, 25, of Mendota Heights, Minnesota, is earning an Associate of Arts (A.A.) degree at Inver Hills Community College as a key milestone on the road to becoming a mechanical engineer. Engineers can specialize in many different branches, from aerospace to electrical to nuclear. Engineers in general have shared personality traits, including strong critical thinking and collaboration skills, resourcefulness and inquisitive minds.
“Different types of engineers also seem to have their own personality types,” Charles said. “Civil engineers are chill; computer engineers are often analytical, and chemical engineers tend to be ambitious. Mechanical engineers are earnest. We really want to know how things work, which means we love taking things apart. We’re super-big nerds who are fascinated by the world around us.”
A 2009 graduate of St. Paul Academy, Charles was an active student in high school, competing in gymnastics and fencing (he went to the USFA Nationals in foil) and advancing his musical interests by playing piano and guitar. He’s a sophomore at Inver Hills with plans to graduate in spring 2017.
“I chose engineering because I’ve always liked problem-solving and working with my hands,” Charles said. “I chose Inver Hills because the college is close by and has a great campus community. After earning my A.A., I’m going to transfer to the University of Minnesota to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering and from there my master’s degree. Ultimately, I would like to start my own consulting firm and be my own boss.”
More about Charles…
What has been your toughest challenge in life?
“Focusing and prioritizing. Growing up means learning who you are and what you want. I have established my priorities and am focused on achieving my goal of becoming a mechanical engineer.”
What is your greatest strength?
“I’m good at gathering people together to work on projects such as building a website or forming a musical band. Right now, I’m in the process of forming an Engineering Club on campus.”
What person has influenced you most in life?
“My mother. She strives to continually learn, which has encouraged me to never stop my pursuit of knowledge.”
Three words that describe you as a college student:
Courageous. Bold. Passionate.
Headquartered in Minneapolis, WSB & Associates is a professional consulting and design firm providing engineering, planning, environmental and construction services to clients in the government, energy and commercial markets. Charles interned at WSB last summer, gaining valuable experience on a number of engineering-related project areas, including transportation, municipal, structural, wastewater systems and construction services.
Charles was able to land his WSB internship through the work of the Douglas Differt Difference Makers (D3M) STEM Scholarship Committee and via the college’s Center for Experiential Learning.
Gail Morrison, executive director of the Inver Hills Foundation, reported that D3M is well into Phase II of the overall project. “Phase II involves extensive committee planning related to mapping curricula, developing internships, distributing scholarship dollars, identifying critical workforce skills, increasing awareness of STEM career opportunities, and creating viable career pathways,” Gail said. “Charles was our project’s first intern. He performed very well and impressed his supervisors and mentors at WSB.”
Dionna Jones serves as director of the Center for Experiential Learning. Dionna worked with Charles to help him connect with different companies and find the internship that lined up best with his future aspirations.
“Charles is an ideal example of how the D3M Endowed Scholarship project and experiential learning can advance a student’s academic and career goals,” she said. “He has so much to say about his transformative internship experience with WSB and his desire to help out with the Engineering program at Inver Hills.”
Dionna added that the Center for Experiential Learning prepares students to successfully apply and present themselves to employers. “We work with students and employers to identity best matches based on employer opportunities and needs as well as student goals,” she said. “We also provide follow-up coaching and skill development while students are in internship.”
“Charles’ internship went well. He was eager to learn and had a lot of energy. He worked in North Dakota on a roadway project and worked with the municipal group, too. He seems eager to learn the municipal and project management side of our work.” — Carl Osberg, WSB Managing Structural Engineer
“I have worked a fair amount with Charles and my feeling is that he is very willing to learn new stuff and is extremely enthusiastic about our structures projects. He seemed very capable of comprehending what tasks we had him do and is always ready for the next task. It is very exciting to see a young engineering student with so much enthusiasm for learning about your structures projects and willing to contribute to the success of the project anyway he can.” — David Vincent, WSB Structural Engineering Specialist, Technical Associate
WSB galleryCharles reported that getting the internship was just like interviewing for a job. “Soft skills are vitally important in any engineering field,” he said. “You need the technical know-how, but you also need the ability to communicate your ideas and work collaboratively toward a common goal. Soft skills give you that sense of direction you need to make the best impression in the workplace.”
During his WSB internship, Charles got the chance to explore several responsibilities at a major firm. He took part in administrative duties, traffic counts, signage, road evaluation, CAD training and redlining, the latter referring to the red ink used to mark up corrections on architectural drawings. He also traveled to Grand Forks, North Dakota, to work on a WSB transportation project.
“Things are fast-paced at a firm like WSB, but I had opportunities to connect with mentors in the engineering profession,” Charles said. “I highly recommend doing an internship to give you an idea of what to expect when you hit the workforce.”
Charles belongs to Phi Theta Kappa at Inver Hills and is also College Reading & Learning Association (CRLA) Level 2 Certified. He resides in Mendota Heights. His pastimes include playing piano and guitar, rock climbing, reading and “talking to anyone and everything about anything and everything.”
Charles Feng | 21 Answers
- Favorite season: Summer
- Favorite natural feature: Atlantic Ocean
- Favorite sport or physical activity: Rock climbing
- Your national bird if you could have one: Canadian goose
- Place you would most like to visit: Peru
- Favorite holiday: Christmas
- Your national mammal if you could have one: Opossum
- Favorite actor or actress: Daniel Day Lewis
- Favorite band or performing artist: Foxy Shazam
- Your personal motto if you had to have one: “Fail faster.”
- Coolest thing in the world: Talking to a total stranger
- Scariest thing in the world: Talking to a total stranger
- Favorite all-time TV show: Avatar: The Last Airbender
- Favorite all-time movie: Shawshank Redemption
- One thing you most want to accomplish in life: Start a small mechanical engineering consulting firm
- Most precious material possession: Acoustic guitar
- First thing you would buy if you won the $1.5 billion Powerball: Buy friends and family vacation experiences of a lifetime
- Dream occupation: CEO of own firm
- Person you would most like to meet: Socrates
- Skill you would most like to learn and master: Computer programming
- Humankind’s greatest challenge: Thinking collectively
To learn more about earning an Associate of Arts (A.A.) degree at Inver Hills, contact:
To learn more about the Douglas Differt Difference Makers (D3M) Endowed Scholarship, contact:
Executive Director of Foundation and Community Relations