There was a time when getting a summer job meant flipping burgers at a restaurant. And if you weren’t old enough to drive, it had better be at a restaurant you could reach on foot.
But Graham Smith, 15, spent his summer working as an intern. At a company that makes 3-D printers. In New York City.
“Primarily, I was doing tech support,” Graham said of his internship at Maker Bot. “The rest of time, I was learning how to use the printers. I fixed a lot of printers. I pretty much built a printer. I learned them kind of inside out.”
Learning about computers and what makes them tick is nothing new to Graham, who began dabbling in programming at the age of 11.
“I just thought it would be cool,” Graham said when asked what sparked his interest. “I enjoyed playing computer games, just like any other teenager kid.
“But getting started, the way I really learned is I would find examples of code someone had written, and then I would make changes, and then slowly I would be able to change the code completely and write my own.”
Thanks to mentoring from former teacher Cam Christiansen, Graham was ahead of the computer curve at the Episcopal School of Dallas, where he’s been a student since kindergarten. He also took a college-level computer-science course at SMU the summer before he became a ninth-grader.
Graham has further absorbed technical knowledge by hanging out at the Dallas Maker Space — a North Dallas facility that serves as a community workshop for hobbies ranging from 3-D printing to textiles to metal working — and by participating in hack-a-thons around North Texas.
For those of you who still have trouble properly accessing your email on your phone, Graham explained that a hack-a-thon is a competition in which programmers build websites or apps from scratch within a given timeframe. He said Maker Bot hosted a hack-a-thon during his internship.
Graham learned of Maker Bot’s internship program via the Dallas Maker Space. Coincidentally, an aunt who lives in New York’s northern suburbs knows someone who works at the company, so Graham was able to work those connections. He was also able to stay at his aunt’s house during the summer, commuting to Brooklyn every day via trains and subways.
Maker Bot spokeswoman Jenifer Howard said her firm had at least one other intern Graham’s age this summer, as part of the web development team.
“It’s not terribly unusual for us to have 15-year-olds working here, but it’s not something you see every day,” she said.