By Samantha Winn | January 7, 2019
Working for Elon Musk and his unrivaled team at Tesla was something mechanical engineering senior Brian Youngblood had been dreaming about for years. During the spring and summer of 2019, his dream finally came true.
“Tesla’s mission and success was one of the factors that made me want to go into engineering. It was inspiring to see a company like that able to grow and make a difference in the world,” Youngblood said.
However, the journey to Tesla was not an easy one. After applying each year since his freshman year with little success, Youngblood took an internship at Pratt and Whitney in Connecticut and continued to delve into research on campus to gain the experience necessary for Tesla.
“I now realize it is totally possible to reach for whatever your dream company or experience might be.”
- Brian Youngblood, Senior, Mechanical Engineering
With the help of David Reyes-Bastida, a former intern for Tesla and alumnus of UofSC, Youngblood finally had the connection to land an interview with a recruiter.
“I was nervous because Tesla is notoriously difficult to get a job at and I realized that this was potentially the most important interview I had up to this point,” he said.
Then the good news of his Tesla acceptance came.
“I got an email a few days later and was ecstatic,” he said. “I was super excited and called my parents of course. It was surreal. I had wanted this for years and was overjoyed when it finally came to fruition.”
After receiving his acceptance letter, the work had just begun. He was assigned to work on the maintenance team for the automated equipment used in support of Models S, X and 3 production and to help with the redesign and continued maintenance of some of their equipment. A lot of the work consisted of long hours on his feet throughout the factory instead of in the office.
“But that’s part of the deal working at Tesla,” he said. “You have to be scrappy and do whatever work is necessary, so even though the people working there are super smart, everyone also realizes that to get things done for this mission, you have to be willing to step out of your comfort zone, work hard, and do things that you have never done before.”
During his time at Tesla, multiple parts he redesigned on a robotic arm used for moving tires were finalized and used during the production of the Model S and X cars.
“Along with redesigning parts for it, I created a process change and saw it through design, fabrication, implementation, and testing,” he said. “I think the most fulfilling part was when I swapped out the old tool, installed my tool and made some minor changes, started the robot and it ran. That was the wildest experience I’ve had up to this point in school. Building a product, installing it and having it work, and knowing that it has been working well ever since is a wonderful feeling.” Since this new arm was installed, it has increased the efficiency of the process by 25% and allowed for an increase in the production of Model S and X cars.
One of the individuals that helped make Youngblood’s journey to Tesla possible was Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering Ramy Harik. Youngblood joined his research team in the McNair Center two weeks after his freshman year started and stayed there for several years working under two grad students in two different functions.
“I wish that when my son grows up, he will come to me like Brian comes to me,” Harik said. “He trusts me and comes to me to ask for advice. I obviously want the absolute best for him.”
“Our main focus is to inspire and to make sure that our students get the best out of what they want,” Harik continued.
Youngblood’s time at Tesla, while brief, was impactful on his engineering career.
“I would say the biggest takeaway is that it helped me realize what is possible for me to achieve,” he said. “I now realize it is totally possible to reach for whatever your dream company or experience might be.”
Since his internship with Tesla, Youngblood has interests in learning about sustainable start-ups, especially in the aerospace industry, and will be interning at Apple in the summer of 2020 as a technical program management intern. His plan is to graduate in December of 2020.
“I want to work somewhere crazy where everyone is working really hard but for an interesting mission and interesting goal,” Youngblood said.
Until then, the grind and persistence towards his newest goals outside of the automotive industry continue.