August 12, 2013 | Matt Kucinski

Charles Larson stands outside The Field Museum in Chicago.

Every summer, hundreds of Calvin students scatter across the U.S. and around the world, researching, interning and exploring. This summer, some of these students are keeping us informed about their adventures. Next up: sophomore Charles Larson of Oak Park, Ill., a computer science major at Calvin College. This summer, Charles is interning in downtown Chicago.

Where are you?

Right now, I'm in the Education department at The Field Museum. Our building is on Lake Shore Drive, right off the coast of Lake Michigan. You can't miss us, we've got a massive Brachiosaurus skeleton right out front.

Why are you there?

I am here because I love to use my skills with computers to help others. When I was presented with the chance to be part of one of The Field Museum's summer programs for high school students, I couldn't say “no.”

What’s your typical day like?

We have no typical days at The Field Museum. One day, I might be helping the students set up video equipment in the museum's massive collection of preserved fishes. Another day I might be setting up a presentation for researchers that study soil ecosystems. I honestly never know exactly what to expect. There's a new surprise every day.

What (technically) are you doing?

Our summer program takes a group of high school students and gives them the chance to create digital media projects that showcase new scientific research happening at the museum. Students make games, movies, music, social media projects, animations that teach the public about all kinds of new discoveries.

I am a program assistant. My role is to make sure the students have all of the tools they need at the ready. I organize and supply the students with tripods, laptops, microphones, software, USB cables, you name it. I also set up all of the computers for the students. I am not a professional musician or filmmaker, but if the students have questions about how to use software or how to create a network connection to send files, I can help them solve those problems.

What (in layperson's terms) are doing?

I help students use computers to learn about science.

How has Calvin prepared you for this?

Setting up software for students can be tedious work. You often have to repeat a single task for each of the student computers. I've used many of the things I've learned at Calvin to make custom computer code that will automate different parts of this process.

What has surprised you so far?

You can never plan ahead enough. No matter how many contingencies we try to plan for, something will always go wrong that we did not anticipate. My two supervisors are extremely helpful and adaptable people, so we always land on our feet. I don't know where I'd be without them.

How do you see this shaping your future?

It's been a really unique experience to get to administer computers for such a unique and innovative program. We teach our students a lot of different things over the summer. I think that the diversity of our program's content has taught me about not just how to solve a wide variety of computer problems but to show people how to solve computer problems for themselves. It's like that quote about teaching a man to fish... except with keyboard shortcuts.

Met anybody memorable?

I've met some absolutely astounding students. It's a privilege to get to be a part of their education and to get them excited about science.

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