It’s been said that experience is the best education, which is why so many college students complete internships as a part of their graduation practicum. It is less common, however, for high school students to take part in the internship tradition—let alone in the engineering industry.
That’s why Edina Public Schools’ Next Generation internship program—part of national science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) initiative Project Lead the Way—is making waves. Four seniors from Edina High School—Logan Ramlet, Sophia Rouman, Tony Tolins and Harrison Delecki—were chosen by civil engineering and architecture instructor Jodi Ramirez to take part in the first round of this program this past fall, in partnership with Precision Gasket Co. (PGC) in Edina.
The eight-week program was the brainchild of PGC’s director of sales and marketing, John Bower. After viewing a presentation at the public schools about Project Lead the Way and giving back in the field of education, he approached superintendent Ric Dressen. “We talked about how it would be possible for [PGC] to give back,” Bower says. And the engineering internship program was born.
“[The students] were picked based on their academics, interest and schedule,” Ramirez says. During the first round, the internship was an independent study, so the students’ schedules had to be flexible since they would be working at PCG for an hour during school-day free time. For the current spring interns, the internship is part of a class with Ramirez, making scheduling slightly easier. Participants submitted weekly journals and checked in with Ramirez throughout the internship. At the end, they created presentations on their experiences for the Edina Public Schools staff.
Students gained more from the program than leaders expected. While Tolins was developing a way for a subwoofer in his car to stop vibrating, Ramlet worked on eliminating the vibrations of an air compressor, and Rouman and Delecki developed a more efficient and less expensive air filter for the overhead projectors in Edina classrooms. For roughly an hour, three days a week, these students worked on their projects and gained valuable experience.
Other unexpected results arose from the filter created by Rouman and Delecki that could decrease associated costs to the school district by nearly 40 percent, PGC marketing manager, Amber Fennell says—which led the school to buy 100 filters. “All of the students are incredibly bright and it was fun to see them come in at the beginning and be somewhat shy, but really blossom at the end and provide these amazing presentations to large groups of people,” Fennell says.
“Not many students get the opportunity to be immersed in an engineering firm,” Delecki says. Through developing the filters, “I got a very rare opportunity to see just how many moving parts are involved.”
His partner in the program was excited to put her three years of engineering courses to work. “I wanted to confirm that engineering was what I want to pursue for my career, and it is,” Rouman says. “I want to be an engineer and make products that benefit people’s lives.”
Ramlet’s work on preventing the air compressor from spinning in circles due to vibrations helped him narrow down the area of engineering he wishes to pursue, and because he worked closely with a recent college graduate, “I got a good grasp on what life will be like when looking for a job out of college.”
Ramirez hopes to continue making connections and get other companies involved in future Next Generation internship programing, though the relationship with PGC is ideal, she says. “PGC saw [Tolins’] passion for his car [on the subwoofer project] and really went with it. They got him excited about engineering.”
As for the students, Ramirez says, “They couldn’t say enough about how much they loved it.”