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My Summer As an Intern in the VisLab

September 30, 2014

The following was written by Martha Vorder Bruegge about her time as an intern in the Visual World Investigate Lab. Martha is a sophomore at Agnes Scott College in Georgia majoring in neuroscience. She spent the past summer assisting visitors in the lab, helping with lab projects, and creating a multimedia exhibit focusing on the human brain. Her project is currently on display in lab.

Martha VisLab Robotics

Martha assisting a participant in one of the VisLab’s robotics classes

I thoroughly enjoyed working as an intern for the Visual World Investigate lab this summer. For my first internship, this was a phenomenal, unforgettable, and extremely rewarding experience. My job in the lab intertwined two of my greatest loves – social interaction and learning – by allowing me to introduce visitors to the lab and assist Matt and Walt with their classes and projects. Whenever a visitor curiously wandered in, I demonstrated the electronic gadgets and robots on display and explained the topics and technology used at different computer stations. In addition, I got the opportunity to develop my own informational multimedia display on major brain structures and functions for my internship project.

The process of creating this display provided valuable experience in the research and development of a multimedia project that delivers a clear message to viewers. During my internship I learned how to write code, how to troubleshoot and perform routine maintenance on computers, the names and functions of various electrical components, and most excitingly, how to put together an Arduino robot. The individual computer stations themselves provided me with a wealth of new information. For the interactive solar system stations I learned facts about the planets and sun so I could impress and educate visitors, and by doing this I learned more about astronomy.

I chose the Visual World lab for my internship so that I could challenge myself in an unfamiliar field and get a feel for how internships work. Because I am considered the most technologically savvy member of my family, I recognized this internship as a chance to improve my current knowledge about computers, software, and electronics. With this enhanced and marketable knowledge, I can further advise and assist family, friends, and fellow peers. Additionally, I am familiar with and fond of the NC Museum of Natural Sciences from going on school field trips there throughout my childhood. This personal connection to the museum made working there more comfortable and inspiring. I especially appreciated that since I came into the lab from a non-technical background. Because I lacked experience with circuits, coding, and computer software, the advanced technology and strange gadgets in the lab initially overwhelmed and scared me. Whenever Matt and Walt discussed electrical components or details for a programming project, it seemed like they spoke a foreign language. However, I adapted to the new environment within two weeks by listening to volunteers describe the purpose and mechanics of the stations and gadgets. I basically memorized the script and then shared facts in my own words. Visitors actually commented that I sounded very intelligent and impressive when I blew their minds with “Did you know…” facts.

Walt, Martha, and Matthew

Martha in the electronics workstation with her Arduino robot.

If I had to pick one aspect I enjoyed most, building Arduino robots and interacting with the public would tie for first place. Assembling robots appeared similar to solving a jigsaw puzzle. When every piece is placed in the right location, a functional masterpiece is created. I found it extremely surprising that I could actually understand and confidently operate electronics and robotics. Prior to this internship, robots with complicated networks of wires intimidated me because they seemed difficult to comprehend. However, Matt debunked the complexity of robots with his simple explanations, thereby making robot construction incredibly easy and exciting. Interacting with the public appealed to me because every visitor that entered brought unique questions and perspectives that I couldn’t anticipate. Answering questions and demonstrating the programs made me feel useful and meaningful, while sometimes the individual knew more about a topic than me and enlightened me with intriguing facts and findings.

Much of what I learned and accomplished during this internship can be transferred to my academic pursuits and scientific studies. I developed many valuable skills including research ability, public speaking, memorization, work ethic, professionalism, organization, productivity, and flexibility. As a result of this summer experience, I am more confident and eager to conduct research and educate the public about scientific topics, and I will more efficiently organize my time in college and on projects I get involved in so that I can prepare myself for my ultimate goal of attending medical school. I don’t regret choosing this internship at all, and if I could, I would do it again.

 

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