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Wednesday, June 26, 2019

HARC Community Sustainability High School Intern Program: Training Tomorrow's Leaders, Today

HARC Interns

Students receive hands-on training in science and research.

With education a central part of its mission, annually HARC opens its campus to a team of bright and enthusiastic high school interns. This year, HARC was pleased once again to participate in the Education for Tomorrow Alliance’s Summer Intern Program. In addition, and new for 2019, HARC launched the Intern Program for a Sustainable Future. With this dedicated talent roaming our halls, HARC seeks to impact the future, today.

As a participant in EfTA's Summer Intern Program, HARC provides opportunity to four high school students hands-on learning opportunities in environmental science research. The SIP internships are designed to provide valuable work experiences for students who are just starting to explore career options. The program offers a first step toward furthering their education and figuring out what direction students want to take in life.

Summer 2019 EfTA Interns:

Rudy Barrels, Senior, Oak Ridge High School
HARC Intern Mentors
Dr. Erin Kinney and Ryan Bare

I primarily did research on different types of methods, technologies, and designs residents can implement into their homes to make their houses or residential buildings sustainable in emergency situations. I looked at energy retrofits, new construction, and new ideas that can work well in Houston.

My favorite part of this internship was being able to work closely with skilled employees and contributing towards HARC's vision. What surprised me the most was the friendliness and welcoming all employees had for me and the other interns.

I plan to go to college and major in the STEM field. I have my vision set on majoring in the electrical field. Currently, my goal is to get into UT Austin or the University of Houston. My plans have not changed but rather become more focused because of this internship.

The lessons I will take from working at HARC is knowing the importance of business cues, being on time for meetings, maintaining independent work ethic, wearing appropriate clothing for certain settings, and working for what I enjoy.

Maya Kolluri, Senior, The John Cooper School
HARC Intern Mentors
Carlos Gamarra and Marina Badoian-Kriticos

Throughout this internship I was able to learn about the function of the HARC building itself and how it works to be as energy efficient as possible. I also collected data of the Houston area from an online commercial real estate information company to better understand Houston area buildings.

Favorite parts?
I truly have enjoyed my internship at HARC because I was able to learn so much more than I was expecting, both within the area of energy and outside. As someone who is passionate about sustainability, I enjoyed the ability to see that vast amount of career paths that are available.

I went into the internship not really knowing what to expect, so I wouldn’t say that anything really surprised me. Instead, I feel that I was able to learn something new every day. I hope to study either engineering or environmental science in college, and I hope to always have sustainability be a major part of my life. If anything, this internship has made me more excited of the future, and even more sure of what I hope to pursue in the future.

This internship has taught me to not be afraid to ask questions. There is always so much going on, and there is nothing wrong in asking a few questions if you don’t understand something.

Nicole Petit, Senior, The Woodlands High School
HARC Intern Mentors
Dr. Erin Kinney, Ryan Bare, and Dr. Stephanie Glenn

I researched adaptations and assessments to improve estuary resilience, identifying main issues that are targeted and strategies to improve resilience. I also helped to update a data layer of conservation lands using GIS, by flagging properties that needed to be added to the data layer. I also researched data and studies of littering within Texas, identifying how litter was recorded and the extent of the data. The other project I worked on was to update the Invasive Species database by providing additional common names and categorizing species that were listed.

Favorite parts?
My favorite parts about the internship were working on research that is important to other researchers, observing the various interesting projects which HARC works on, such as the State of the Bay, and meeting researchers of various fields.

I was surprised to learn about the HARC building and found it interesting how much thought and planning was put into its creation. I was also surprised by how HARC has nurtured such an open and friendly environment between its employees.

Although I do not plan to work in the sustainability field, I believe this internship has solidified how important sustainability and research on the environment is. An important takeaway from this internship was to see how research and projects require a large amount of collaboration, whether through meetings, emails, or one on one conversations. While not necessarily a lesson, this internship has helped me to strengthen my skills at working in an office with others, such as skills on how to follow up on projects, how to dress business casual, how to email for various situations, and how to focus on tasks at hand.

Peyton Robertson, Senior, College Park High School
HARC Intern Mentors
Dr. Mustapha Beydoun and Dr. Asanga Wijesinghe

I have really enjoyed my internship at HARC and admire the work everyone here does towards achieving a sustainable future, as that is my passion as well. I conducted a substantial amount of research into exactly what indoor air quality is comprised of, as well as the most effective way to go about measuring it. Following this extensive research, we were able to order parts for and begin building and programming an indoor air quality monitor that will collect real-time data throughout the building here at HARC.

Favorite parts?
My favorite part of this internship has been the welcoming atmosphere at HARC, which allowed me to feel comfortable enough to ask questions if I didn’t understand something and truly learn as much as possible from each team member I encountered. That being said, it has also still been a wonderful opportunity to learn what it’s like to work in a professional environment. Following my graduation from high school next year, I hope to attend Colorado School of Mines where I plan to pursue a degree in environmental engineering to act upon my passion for sustainability, which this internship has only added to. There are several things I learned at HARC that I think will prove valuable in the future, the most important being that it is imperative to engage in conversation with others in a professional environment because, especially as an intern, there’s something new that can be learned from everyone.

HARC’s Intern Program for a Sustainable Future

The goal of HARC’s intern program is to provide opportunities for students to get hands-on experience in fields relating to sustainability, engineering, and environmental sciences. Students will have meaningful work assignments shadowing research staff, collecting data, attending networking events, observing operations, assisting in data analysis, and many other duties. The student will have personal contact with research scientists, as well as managers and executives to help them explore future career possibilities.

2019 Intern:

Sydney Tough, Senior, The Woodlands High School
HARC Intern Mentors
Carlos Gamarra and Andra Wilcox

During my internship, I analyzed HARC's geothermal heat pump data using Excel and drafted a PowerPoint presentation showing the performance of HARC's heat pumps. I also helped with HARC's building energy audit by looking at the building's plug loads and lighting circuits. With Andra, I researched and learned about natural gas flaring issues.

My favorite part of my internship was getting able to talk to my mentors as well as other employees and learn about their backgrounds and what led them to HARC. It gave me a lot of information on the majors I'm looking into as well as advice and lessons that will help me prepare for future adjustments to college.

I was surprised at how family-oriented the HARC group is. They constantly ask each other questions to learn about each other's fields. I didn't realize how much they collaborated on projects as well as learned from each other.

After high school, I plan on attending the University of Texas in Austin and majoring in engineering or business. I learned a lot about both fields from talking to my mentors as well as meeting with other employees which has only made me want to pursue these fields more.

One important lesson I will carry with me through college is to soak up as many experiences and opportunities as I can. Even though I was here for four weeks, it felt shorter and I wish I could stay all summer so that I could learn and work with my mentors more, so I will always remember to be open to anything and absorb as much information as I can.