I had the pleasure of visiting one of my Spanish students at her internship. Lola Patty, a senior at the Met, interns for CalTrans Aeronautics Division. Before she landed this fantastic internship, Lola had zero luck finding something in the field of engineering, a field that she is passionate about and plans to pursue after high school. When Lola got the word that she secured the internship at CalTrans, she was ecstatic! This was quite an accomplishment, being that we have never had an intern at CalTrans.
When I arrived at the site, I was greeted by a security guard at the front desk. I showed my ID (no felony record here), and was allowed to enter what was a maze of a building. The place is on lock down, and you must have a badge to enter any area. Lucky for me, Lola was my guide. When we got to her office, Lola began to share her work and experience with me. In that moment, I realized that my student was not my student. She was someone I was visiting at work, someone I was job shadowing. Lola is not making coffee for the office, or throwing out the trash, although both duties are admirable. Lola is doing some pretty rigorous and interesting work. According to Tarek (Lola’s mentor), “Lola is doing work we have college students do.”
One of the projects Lola is working on is updating the “Guide for California Aviation Law Enforcement.” The guide was last updated in 2002, so it is quite the task! Many laws have been amended, and Lola must go through every single one to make the necessary updates to the guide. Her time is spent reading countless laws in place to protect our airspace, and making sure the information in the guide is accurate. Lola also spends her days working on creating and, once completed, implementing an application for CalTrans employees who wish to fly a drone.
The Federal Aviation Administration decides what is required to fly a drone, and Lola is putting together an application for CalTrans employees. I learned that in order to fly a drone, one must have permission. Flying is similar to driving in that there are traffic rules one must follow. However, there are no stoplights, or stop signs in the air. So how do people know the rules around this? That’s the job of the Federal Aviation Administration.
I was a little nervous when Lola was talking about drones becoming a part of our society and everyday life. I had no idea there are drones that are Ubers. That’s right! A drone can pick you up and take you to your destination. Obviously, this is not going to happen next week. However, Lola and her mentor assured me that it will happen. How exciting for Lola to know that in 30 years, when we are all flying around, me included (if I am still alive), she will be part of “drone history” at CalTrans.
Thank you, Lola, for sharing all the great things you are doing at CalTrans.