Joshua Thompson has been part of the Science Center in several different roles; first as a FirstHand participant in the Project Inquiry pilot followed by the Varsity Cohort, then as part of FirstHand’s inaugural Summer Intensive for high school students. He even performed comedy for our board of directors. And since the start of the summer, Josh has transitioned from FirstHand student to FirstHand intern.
Just because he’s teaching however, doesn’t mean he’s done learning. Josh’s determination and drive to learn all there is to know through FirstHand remain just as strong today. Despite never having offered an internship before, it was Josh’s initiative that led FirstHand to create the role –and it’s precisely for these reasons that he’s the ideal candidate.
“Josh’s internship was the exact spark that FirstHand needed this Summer. We love Josh because he embodies the skills and qualities that we want all of our students to develop and implement into their lives,” says FirstHand Program Manager Adam Durant. “Josh’s curiosity and commitment to learning new skills, new tools, and growing his networking skills has grown greatly in these past six weeks. His impact on FirstHand was evident during our Summer Intensive and Taste Test programs and will continue to impact our programming in the near future and beyond.”
We sat down with Josh at the start of his internship and again earlier this week as his time with FirstHand comes to an end.
Read on to learn about what kept him coming back, what he has learned and the lessons he’ll take with him as he pursues an engineering degree from Penn State Erie this fall.
“Josh’s internship was the exact spark that FirstHand needed this Summer. We love Josh because he embodies the skills and qualities that we want all of our students to develop and implement into their lives. Josh’s curiosity and commitment to learning new skills, new tools, and growing his networking skills has grown greatly in these past six weeks. His impact on FirstHand was evident during our Summer Intensive and Taste Test programs and will continue to impact our programming in the near future and beyond.”
After taking several FirstHand classes, how did you come to return as an intern?
I initially thought my first year with FirstHand was a “one-time” deal but I knew I wanted to do it all over again. I kept in touch with the FirstHand team through email after the varsity cohort ended and kept asking if they had any internship programs available. They did let me know that they would be starting a summer intensive program where we would work on hands-on projects and learn to create different things on our own. I of course signed up, and then right before it began I got the great news that they had an internship opportunity for me afterwards and gave me a run-down of what I would be doing and helping them out with.
What was your experience like as a FirstHand student?
I remember being at school and in class when they first proposed the FirstHand program to us. At first, I wasn't really sure if it was something I would enjoy but the way they explained and introduced it to us, it definitely sparked an interest. Once I saw the hands-on work involved and the different collaborations, I was comfortable enough to just jump in, I wasn’t shy about working with other students and just rolled with it.
What are you hoping to get out of this internship experience?
Just exposure; I’m going to be studying engineering at Penn State in the fall and thought FirstHand would be the best place to see and experience what the world of science and STEM is like. I’ve connected with a lot of people here, and they have all supported my journey into engineering.
Did your time with FirstHand influence your decision to study electrical engineering?
I wouldn’t say it started my interest because it was something I had been considering for a while, but it definitely encouraged it in different ways. Before I wasn’t really thinking about the requirements in the lab, the team work and collaborating with people you might not know or be friends with to come up with something, basically the environment of it all. Now I have a much better picture of what a career in engineering looks like.
What were some of the more interesting collaborations you witnessed as an intern teaching other students?
In general, just seeing different types of personalities mix that you wouldn't normally see come together and really work well. You can pair any of the kids here up, even if it’s not with their best friend, and they will still produce quality work. I witnessed that with two students in particular who I know don't really spend much time together outside of FirstHand, but they worked great in the lab.
What did you learn about the science and technology world, was there anything that you learned or saw that surprised you?
I was surprised by the heat press, vinyl press and laser cutters that we used here to make tee shirts because they got me thinking a lot deeper about all the things I can create and how in turn I can be helpful in making something that can benefit the scientific community, or even technology that could possibly advance the world.
Complete the sentence: As a curious kid, I....
...wanted to be Spiderman so that I could make my own web-shooters.