Beyond the Classroom: Sarah Laffen


Sarah Laffen is a aerospace engineering sophomore spending her summer vacation working at the National Institute for Aviation Research's Advanced Machining and Prototyping Laboratory. She is using the opportunity to enhance her skills as a student as she majors in aerospace engineering.

More than 5,000 Shockers each year take what they’ve learned in the classroom and transfer that knowledge into real-world environments. Applied learning — which is required for every Wichita State student — happens in offices, factories, laboratories, nonprofits, industries and companies across the globe. Students work side-by-side with seasoned professionals to ensure that they’re fully prepared to make meaningful contributions to their employers and their communities when they graduate. 


Andover, Kansas


Aerospace engineering



What is your job title, the company you work for, and your duties during your applied learning experience?

I am a student assistant at the National Institute for Aviation Research's (NIAR) Advanced Machining and Prototyping Laboratory. I operate and program computer numerical controls mills to manufacture parts made from steel, aluminum, titanium or other materials for customers.

How long do you expect to work in your current position?

I started working at this lab August 2021. I plan on working here until I graduate.

How did you learn about this opportunity?

I grew up around NIAR since my dad is the director of the wind tunnel.

How is this experience helping you build your resume and prepare you for your career?

This experience is helping me gain a lot of real-life work experience in aerospace, and I’ve learned various useful skills while working here that will prepare me for it.

How have your classes and experiences at Wichita State prepared you to succeed in this applied-learning opportunity?

Wichita State has given me knowledge from math, physics and Computer Aided Three-Dimensional Interactive Application classes that have helped me succeed at this job.

What advice would you give other students who are looking for hands-on experiences in their major while they finish college?

WSU also has so many job and internship opportunities available for pretty much every major, especially engineering majors, so it’s really a matter of putting yourself out there and making connections with potential employers. Going to job fairs and similar events is a great way to do this.

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