Systems Engineering Co-Op

MIT Lincoln Laboratory is a Department of Defense Research and Development center based in Lexington, MA. I was a member of their Systems Engineering group, which focuses on integrating the engineering disciplines for projects and making sure top level details are covered properly. During my 6 months here, I mostly focused on one large project that spanned my entire time at MITLL.


Our project's goal was to retrofit a CONEX shipping container to be used as a portable and complete lab environment. The final product was designed to simply be shipped to the research location, be hooked up to the power grid, and quickly begin working out of it.

The lab environment was to be used for operation and maintenance of very sensitive and advanced astronomical research equipment. It was to be lifted up through an escape hatch in the ceiling of the CONEX container so it could conduct its research pointed at the sky, and then be lowered into the container for maintenance.

The container needed to have specific clean room level standardization and a comfortable working environment for the researchers to stay there for a full work day. It also needed its own electrical infrastructure; including a circuit breaker panel and NEMA-acceptable outlets for the equipment used.


The first task I received for this project was to perform a decision matrix for the lift to be used in this system. I contacted vendors and collected pertinent data on each one to accurately weigh options against each other. We eventually chose a lift and had to modify it for the level of control we desired.

I was tasked with planning the electrical system for the lab as well. I built a list of the equipment we were running in the lab and researched the properly sized circuit breakers needed for said equipment. I then sized the panel accordingly to fit all the breakers we needed plus extra slots for future additions if needed. This also included determining the proper outlets for all the equipment, as many appliances in the lab were not standard 110 AC outlets. This involved making sure the proper outlets were ordered and tracking those appliances to designated fuses if they required it.

I spec'd out a server rack that could house all the computers required for the research plus extra space for future additions if needed. The main factors here involved ensuring the center of gravity was not too high to avoid instability, and proper cable management to improve tidiness and lower the risk of tripping or accidentally pulling the wrong cables.

Other Projects:

Towards the end of my co-op, I was tasked with setting up and familiarizing myself with a GOM precision camera setup. The camera required some complex calibration processes, so I designed and 3D printed a stand for the calibration panel to make the calibration process more efficient. After familiarizing myself with the camera system, I then drafted an operating procedure for future researchers to use it.

Skills Learned:

  • Refined skills with SolidWorks

  • Learned about NEMA standards and circuit breaker sizing

  • Refined general engineering skills such as decision matrices and presenting my findings


©2018 by David Siegel