When Martin Bros., a Los Angeles-based construction and engineering firm, decided to partner with TIP and take on 10 interns for the summer, no one anticipated COVID-19 would make meeting in-person all but impossible. But Heather Powen, Director of Marketing and Community Relations, rose to the challenge and created a virtual learning experience by providing the interns with industry-standard digital rendering and 3D modeling software and assigning them real world architecture, engineering, and construction projects.
Toni, a 11th grader, was a bit skeptical about what her work experience would be, but the internship far exceeded her expectations. “This being my first internship… when I realized it was going to be virtual, I thought Martin Bros. was going to give us an Excel sheet and some data to put in and that was it. But they brought a lot to us—a lot of knowledge, a lot of engagement, and they were really there for us. They genuinely wanted us to succeed.”
Another intern, Nelson, who will be attending engineering school at UC Berkeley in the fall, saw Martin Bros. as a perfect pre-college learning experience for him. Because the internship was so short, Nelson found himself immersed in his work almost immediately, and his swift adaptability paid off. “After downloading SketchUp Pro, I was thinking we’d have a week of pure training before they assigned us a project, but now when I look back, I’m grateful that they just gave us a project and said, ‘Figure it out.’ There was a learning curve, obviously, but not as much as I thought there’d be.”
One look at all the final presentations from the TIP 2020 cohort confirmed a remarkable amount of success over a very short period of time. In just four weeks, the interns produced several 3D models of structures they designed for ways to make inhabited spaces more usable and beautiful. Toni designed a rechargeable electric scooter station powered by a uniquely curved solar panel roof, which provided sustainable energy while also enhancing the structure’s curb appeal. She also imagined how a UCLA dorm room could utilize rainscreen walls by embedding them directly into the structure, thus preventing erosion and making the building more sustainable over time.
Nelson spent a lot of his time focusing on all the little details of the spaces he created, using the software to eke out the correct dimensions and proportions of each room he designed. He found himself having to think like a real engineer, which was one of his primary goals for the internship and something that his supervisor encouraged all the interns to think about from the beginning. “It was extremely helpful for me to come into a new internship already knowing what I wanted to attain by the end of it. I took a computer course that did 3D modeling [in high school], and it would’ve taken weeks for them to get to this point! Having everything move at a faster pace allowed me to unlock a part of me that I didn’t know I had: I could learn something very quickly if I put my mind and effort into it. It’s a lesson I don’t think I’ll ever forget.”
But Toni’s biggest takeaway was understanding how vast and diverse the engineering field can be. Even though Toni also has an interest in engineering and is studying STEM subjects in high school, Toni was pleasantly surprised by the range of opportunities Martin Bros. provides as a company. “[Before my internship] I didn’t even know Building Information Modelling (BIM) existed, and now I’m glad I do know because I will consider that career for myself in the future.” In the meantime, Toni recently interviewed for a new in-person job to carry her through the rest of the summer. “Luckily, I talked about my experience with Martin Bros. in the interview and gave them an updated resume. I just started working yesterday!”