Fueling the Future

A conversation with Dave Glasco, The Kadey-Krogen Group Naval Architect (and proud University of Michigan alum) about the company’s internship program and next generation of naval architects

How did the internship program come about?

We were interested in having an intern over the summer, and I knew a young man named Zach at the University of Michigan who was interested in getting into boatbuilding, so we decided to have him come work for us. He knew another student who was going through the program and looking for an internship, and he told him about Kadey-Krogen, so the next summer we ended up with another intern—funnily enough, also named Zach. That was 10 years ago, so we’ve had 10 more interns. No more Zachs, though.

How has the program been received?

There seems to be strong interest in it from the student side, and it’s really great for us. I work with Warren Noone, he’s a student advisor at University of Michigan, and I send him a little classified ad of sorts and he circulates it among the students. We get about nine or 10 applicants a year. We offer kind of a unique opportunity as there aren’t that many U.S.-based recreational boatbuilders offering internships, or at least there weren’t when we started.

How is the next generation of naval architects coming along?

Our interns are always well qualified. They have experience with the software we use, so a lot of times they can come in and get right to work. One thing that I’ve seen, and it’s been a bit of a shift, is how they’re teaching the kids these days. Years ago, we had an intern, and I was showing him something that was pretty routine, something we do every day, and he’d never seen it. It was something they’d talk about in theory, but they were never actually taught how to do it. Later, I went to give a talk to the naval architect program at UM and I found that they’ve started adjusting how they teach to cover more of what you’re actually going to encounter in the field when you get out of college.

But now, they’re doing everything I’m doing. I might give them a little project in the beginning to get their feet wet, but there’s no real limit on what they can do. Everything we’re working on they’re working on right alongside us.

What have you learned from the interns? Any “student becomes the teacher” moments?

Not really as far as the software goes, we’re all working on or learning the same programs. But they bring a fresh perspective. It’s because of an intern that I started plotting stuff in color. I always used to plot everything in black and white, grayscale, that sort of thing—I think it’s because of how they used blueprints back in the old days, and I just kept going. Then one day in intern asked me, why don’t you plot in color? And I didn’t have an answer. So, I started to, and the customers love it. Things like that. There are little details I can point to on boats that interns thought up, they keep things fresh.

What do you think the students take away?

There are a lot of changes on a boat throughout the design process. Some interns, early on, will draw something, and forget how it might affect other things—a customer wants to put in a bigger engine, say, and the intern might account for the space in the engine room but not for the additional weight, or how the expansion of the engine’s footprint will affect the rest of the space. That’s just an example, but it’s a valuable lesson in boatbuilding—learning how one thing affects another. I’ll work with them on that, and so their thought process starts to change, and they start to see the interconnectedness of boatbuilding. Everything on a boat is about compromise.