Group photo of Valley Metro Rail summer high school interns

After a summer full of mentorship, engineering and design training and career mentorship, 17 high school students presented their group projects in a celebration ceremony at South Mountain Community College Tuesday.

“This program is about building up communities and learning it’s a lot of fun to build things that help people,” said Scott Smith, CEO of Valley Metro. Addressing the group of students, Smith said, “Regardless of what you do in your life, I hope this internship makes you ready to lead.”

The students represent 11 valley high schools from the areas near two of Valley Metro’s current projects, the South Central Light Rail Extension/Downton Hub and the Northwest Extension phase II. During their eight weeks as interns, students worked directly on these projects alongside mentors from AECOM and Jacobs Engineering, light rail design and construction contractors.

“This internship expanded my knowledge because it opened my eyes to the different possibilities within engineering,” said Paola Hernandez, a summer intern who will begin her senior year at Franklin Police and Fire High School in a few weeks.

Hernandez added, “I didn’t think there were so many disciplines within the field, and I learned how they have to work together. Teamwork is critical when making a big design like the light rail.”

The students were grouped into three teams to complete an engineering project. Each team presented on their process, described the lessons they learned and showed off their final products at the event.

Their projects demonstrated the variety of engineering fields the students gained exposure to. One team worked together to build two Lego Mindstorms robots. One robot had spinning arms on the back designed to deflect small projectiles, while the other was designed to resemble a scorpion and shot small plastic balls from a cannon mounted on its tail. The other team created a self-sustaining wooden bridge by programming a ShopBot machine to cut pieces of wood into just the right dimensions, followed by painting the pieces in a Jackson Pollock-esque style. In addition to these projects, the interns developed a prototype for a Valley Metro app, complete with route details, rider rewards and a charitable donation page.