On-the-job education: Flourishing partnership with Anark Corporation provides Innovation Center students with skills, real-world opportunities

Imagine: you are invited into an opportunity to pilot cutting-edge product for a leading provider of manufacturing and engineering software. Simply write up a thoughtful test plan to get started. Stumped? Reach out to any of the following students: Davita Bird (senior, Niwot HS); James Tran (senior, Niwot HS); Erik Sorenson (senior, Niwot HS); Matthew Fuller (junior, APEX); and Ashwini Shrestha (junior, Skyline HS). The five motivated students recently completed a landmark, four-week, paid internship offered by Anark Corporation resulting from the company’s budding partnership with the Innovation Center of St. Vrain Valley Schools.
 
Boulder-based Anark Corporation develops and markets software products for companies in technical industry, serving companies such as GE, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and many others, with a worldwide network of technology and implementation partners. “We found out about the Innovation Center and were entirely intrigued by the work that they are doing,” says Anark CTO Scott Collins. “We think SVVSD is leaping ahead of surrounding CO school districts in STEM education, and seems to have a solid grasp on what colleges and employers need from graduating seniors.” 
 
Collins met with Robotics and Computer Science Coordinator at the Innovation Center Axel Reitzig, St. Vrain Valley Schools Director of Community; along with SVVSD Business Development Matthew Wiggins, they generated a plan to adapt the corporation’s existing college internship program to work with younger students. Students were invited to apply for one of the five positions following a competitive, real-world process. They submitted resumes and cover letters, earning invitations to interview. “They did very well,” Reitzig says of all students who applied. “I’m very excited for what this means for St. Vrain’s workforce development.”
 
Throughout July, the five students earned $15/hour working 15 hours/week testing software. Students were asked to develop testing plans for the cloud-hosted product, impressing mentors Axel Larsson and Lucas Peterson, Anark Solutions Engineers, with ideas, enthusiasm and initiative. Larsson and Peterson set up a system allowing students to test the product and communicate with them from within the infrastructure of the Innovation Center. Additionally, Larsson and Peterson traveled to the IC to meet with the students weekly. “It was great to have kids coming through, becoming aware of the things we work with,” Larsson says. “The students offered a unique perspective. They found some bugs we’d missed.” 
 
For students, the experience reaped rewards. In addition to the summer income, each earned a semester’s credit. Moreover, they gleaned a wealth of knowledge and skills. “The Anark Internship gave me a firsthand application to the design process outside of an academic setting,” says Tran. “I realized that this process is essential to launching any new product.” 
 
“The Anark Internship impacted me by teaching me meaningful information about making a test plan and working with my peers on a single goal,” says Shrestha. “Although we were separated into different parts of the website, we worked together and continuously checked in with each other and our mentors from Anark which was a significant factor in our success with the test plan.”
 
What’s next for this promising partnership? Anark Corporation places genuine value on nurturing relationships and encouraging young talent, says Larsson, who himself started with the company as an intern from CU Boulder. “Our hope is to expand the program, to involve more students through the Innovation Center for longer periods of time, and add an option for a more advanced Solutions Engineering internship role, which requires more technical experience,” says Collins. “The summer program was a success; the IC interns made important contributions to our quality engineering efforts!”