by Saemmool Lee
The CITRIS Invention Lab has launched a summer internship program for junior high and high school students. From mid-June to early August, nine students from California schools are spending two weeks designing and creating in the 1700-sf makerspace on the first floor of Sutardja Dai Hall.
The interns receive training to operate the lab’s rapid-fabrication equipment, including laser cutters and 3D printers. “In middle school, we would look online at things that people already made,” says Eddie Agnew, a 14-year-old intern entering Berkeley High School this fall. “I want to learn about how to use all the equipment and make some cool stuff.”
The interns are working on hands-on, collaborative STEM projects that vary from building an underwater ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) and “open lab equipment” that uses universal cellphone adapters for microscopes to a conservation drone so quiet as not to disturb wildlife.
Celvi Lisy, a 17-year-old intern from Bentley Upper School in Lafayette, works on the ROV. “I’m hoping to finish the ROV and put in in the Berkeley Marina and see if it works,” says Lisy. About the internship, she says, “It’s a really good opportunity to gain experience and work with people more advanced than I am.”
Young teens have been working in the lab for five years, but the internship program was first formalized this year. “It started with students who came through the lab on a tour and approached us, asking about opportunities for high schoolers,” says Chris Myers, senior lab manager. “So, we started developing a program.”
“It’s part of Invention Lab community outreach,” explains Myers. “We are trying to increase our visibility and give back to the community in a meaningful way.”
Interns can also learn more about what the university experience is really like. “Outside of college, it can be hard to understand exactly what higher education is,” says Myers. “A lot of people think it’s all just book studying. We can show the kinds of programs for hands-on learning and creating physical objects.”
Myers also emphasizes the interdisciplinary appeal of making. “We have a lot of arts and humanities majors using the lab – in fields not typically associated with this type of fabrication, like poetry and rhetoric.”
Summer interns appear to be exceptionally motivated. “A lot of people just go surfing, hang out with friends, or maybe visit colleges,” says Matthew Baik, a 17-year-old intern from Westview High School in San Diego. “If I can learn something and gain experience, that’s more beneficial than just hanging out with friends all summer.”
Myers says that the interns are also very enthusiastic. “I hope that they spread the word about how they spent their summer,” he says, “and with hope, broaden the awareness in high school communities about college.”