“I’m an ex-academic,” said Carolyn Dry, “and when I started out, I was teaching in a College of Environmental Design and Planning, which was in the College of Architecture, and I thought, ‘architects do a lot to the environment but not necessarily for the environment.’” Dry set out to change that when she founded Designs by Natural Process (DNP), a Winona-based materials company dedicated to commercializing green-technology.
For years, Dry has hired students from Winona State University to help her with her work. As a small startup, paying interns wasn’t always easy, that is until she partnered with the SciTech Internship Program, a state-funded employer resource which reimburses small business owners for half of their interns’ wages (up to $2,500 per student).
“SciTech interns are interesting in the sense that there’s more of an academic background,” Dry said. Every student that participates in SciTech goes through a pre-screening process. They must be STEM majors and have a GPA of at least 2.5, along with other requirements.
This summer, Dry hired Maya Fernando, a biochemistry major, and Kaylee Beyer, a composite materials engineering major and polymer chemistry minor, both from Winona State.
“I researched the [DNP] website and saw all the things [Dry] did with the environment,” Beyer recalled. “I’m really into the environment, it’s important for the future, and my goal for a very long time was to do something with the environment related to engineering. So I saw this as a path that, by working here, could open a lot of doors.”
Dry’s approach to hosting internships is a combination of education and hands-on exposure. “I want to make sure they get to use all the equipment,” she confirmed.
Together, Beyer and Fernando gained experience in compression testing, with the goal to develop a more environmentally friendly concrete. In the afternoons, they burned different materials and mixed the ash into new concrete samples. They then poured the mixes into molds to run seven, 14 and 28-day tests. During this process, the interns learned to use a compression machine and got to experiment with CO2 machines as well.
“Seeing the different chemical reactions was cool,” Fernando said. “I’m a chemistry major, not an engineering major, so it was really fun to get a different experience in a different field that I don’t get in my classes.”
“I really liked seeing the variety of what different mixes can do,” Beyer agreed. “It’s been great. I’ve really enjoyed it and I’m happy I ended up here.”
As their internships come to a close, Dry imparted this advice: “The most important attribute for being successful is courage,” Dry said. “When somebody says, ‘Can you do this?’ say ‘Yes.’ Whether you think you can or not. Be audacious.”
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