A Day in the Life of a Big Creek Intern

Robert Casas’ internship at SCE helps him understand what goes into operating a hydroelectric plant.

Robert Casas has no Wi-Fi, no television and spotty cellphone reception. But he wouldn’t change a thing.

“I’ve interned at several companies throughout college — all in offices with fluorescent lighting — and while I enjoyed the work, I felt too restricted being indoors 100 percent of the time,” said Robert, the sole intern at Southern California Edison’s (SCE) Big Creek Hydroelectric Generating Station.

“When I applied for an SCE internship, I never imagined I’d end up here.”

Robert is an electrical engineering student at California State University, Long Beach. This summer, he took on a challenge that would make many uncomfortable — leaving the comforts of city life for the rustic mountain community of Big Creek.

“I served in the U.S. Marine Reserves for six years and learned how to quickly adapt to new environments,” said Robert. “I hadn’t been to Big Creek before this and had little idea of what to expect once I got here, but everyone immediately made me feel like a member of the community.”

His days usually begin around 5 a.m. with a morning jog on nearby hiking trails. He then heads to work where he’s briefed on his assignment for the day. Each day is a little different.

The goal of the internship is to expose Robert to as many roles as possible and help him understand what goes into keeping a hydroelectric plant operating. One day, he’s shadowing a hydrographer driving through the forest to inspect water levels in backcountry reservoirs. The next day, he’s analyzing the value of turning a manual water valve into an automated system.

“While some of the skills I’ve gained in classes come in handy, I’ve learned that school can’t teach you everything you need to know in the real world,” said Robert. “Being here is like summer camp for electrical engineers. I wouldn't change a thing.”