The summer of 2016 was packed full of milestones for Roosevelt High School junior Ashlei Brady. She tried out for the varsity soccer team, got behind the wheel for the first time and successfully completed her first professional internship. As an intern with Saturday Academy’s Apprenticeships in Science and Engineering (ASE) Program, Ashlei worked full-time for eight weeks at an engineering and architect firm in Portland. After her busy and exciting summer, Ashlei looks ahead to the new school year ready to score goals, practice merging onto the highway and continue her investigation of the engineering world.
Ashlei was first introduced to Saturday Academy in 2009 when she was nine years old. Over the years, she’s participated in numerous Saturday Academy camps and classes. From Dragonfly Science Camp, and Glass Art & Jewelry Making classes to Lego Physics and the Engineering Academy, Ashlei has experienced a variety of what Saturday Academy has to offer. Her favorite class, Eye of Horus: Egyptology Ed-ventures, involved mummifying apples and bananas and dissecting a rat!
This year, as a sixteen year old, Ashlei continued her exploration of Saturday Academy’s programs and applied to be an intern with the ASE Program. Since 1990, the ASE Program has matched over 3800 high school students in grades 9-11 with mentor engineers and scientists from academic, government agency, non-profit and private sector facilities and institutions. Typically, about 40% of students are from backgrounds underrepresented in the science fields, and approximately 55% of the interns are female. ASE interns have been listed on published research, helped to design and test commercial products and have spent countless hours in the field and in the lab. Each summer, ASE interns work approximately 300 hours contributing to real-world projects with mentors at their host organization. While the internship is the centerpiece of the program, ASE delivers several signature events for the interns, including two full-day conferences. The Midsummer Conference provides interns with a choice of unique workshops to broaden their scientific and technical knowledge of various disciplines. The ASE Symposium offers each intern the opportunity to formally present their summer’s work as well as attend their peers’ presentations.
Among 527 highly qualified students who applied to be an ASE intern this year, Ashlei was one of the 152 selected. Three different organizations were interested in interviewing Ashlei based on her academic accomplishments at Roosevelt High School and her letters of recommendation. Understandably, Ashlei was quite nervous for the interviews. She said that she was grateful for having participated in ASE’s professional development workshops and having mock interviews in her Jobs 101 class at school – otherwise the nerves would have been a lot worse. After her interviews, Ashlei experienced the all too familiar mind sweep; “After my interviews, my mom would ask me how it went and I would say, ‘I don’t really know, because I can’t remember what I said.’” Whatever she said must have thoroughly impressed her interviewers because two of the three organizations offered Ashlei a position! Ashlei’s love of mathematics and curiosity in engineering led her to choose a positon with Mead & Hunt, an engineering and architect firm in Portland.
In mid-June, Ashlei began working as Mead & Hunt’s civil engineer intern. Her mentor, Ms. Kari Nichols, a professional engineer specializing in storm water and environmental projects, was eager to help give Ashlei a better idea of what she might want to do in the future. In middle school, Ashlei had a teacher who remarked on her impressive mathematic abilities and said that she would make a great engineer one day. Ever since, Ashlei has been keen to examine the different fields of engineering.
Waking up early and wearing professional clothing took some getting used to, but Ashlei settled in to Mead & Hunt particularly well. She immediately felt comfortable asking questions of her mentor and co-mentors, Bob Thayme, Adam Farnsworth and Byron Henicle.
In the beginning of her internship, Ms. Nichols provided Ashlei with a variety of assignments so she could determine what she would like to work on for the duration of her internship. Ashlei explained, “After I had experience with a little bit of everything in the office, my mentor asked me what I would like to do more of. I liked CAD (Computer-Aided Design) modeling and ended up doing a lot more of that than anything else.”
During her time at Mead & Hunt, Ashlei created detailed CAD drawings of the Portland Air National Guard base. This work will immensely help Ms. Nichols and her team on their project of redesigning the main entry gate to meet current standards. Ms. Nichols said, “Ashlei is an eager learner and works through challenges on her own. Ashlei was very committed, [she] got work done for us!”
Ashlei thoroughly enjoyed spending her summer working at Mead & Hunt. In addition to gaining engineering skills and engaging in civil engineering work, her favorite part was learning about communication in an office environment: “Seeing all the engineers work together has shown me how much communication is necessary to make a project work.” Ashlei is grateful to her mentor, Ms. Nichols, and said “her guidance has been very important to my learning and my development of my new professional, organizational and interpersonal skills.”
To those students considering applying to be an ASE intern, Ashlei says “Apply! It’s a long application, but worth it. Do the work that you have to do… I can use this experience not just if I want to go in the field of Engineering, but for any job I want.” She also strongly encourages her fellow Roosevelt classmates to apply; “We [Roosevelt] have a lot of people that are really good in math and science and I think they should hear about this and try for it!”
Next summer, Ashlei hopes to continue studying engineering and attend either the Women's Technology Program hosted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology or Oregon State University’s Summer Experience in Science and Engineering for Youth (SESEY) program. Ultimately, Ashlei wants to attend MIT and study a type of engineering. Until then, she plans to represent her school on the soccer field, ease her parents’ worries as she improves her driving skills and discover which kind of engineering is the one for her. The ASE program is extremely proud of Ashlei and all of the 2016 interns. We can’t wait to see what they accomplish!