Aspiring structural engineer designs her future while working on diploma

By: Jessica Hardtke, Placer County 49er ROP
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Upon entry of local architect Michael Kent Murphy’s office, you’d never know the young professional that first comes into view is actually a high school student who’s doing her internship at the office. Speaking on the phone in a very professional voice, displaying the confidence and using language of a seasoned professional, a poised Holli Tripp gives one the impression that she’s running the show. Tripp, a Placer High School senior, is a star student in Steve Dolan’s Construction Technology program. This program, offered through the Placer County Office of Education, is one of many 49er ROP courses offered to high school juniors and seniors as well as adults. “I’d like to tell you about one of my best students,” Dolan said when asked about his class. “She is amazing — probably the best student I’ve ever had.” Tripp wanted to become a building inspector, and she thought 49er ROP would be a good start to the field. She expected she might gain some exposure from being in the class. “I didn’t expect this class to be so great,” Tripp said. The project manager in the architect’s office, Maureen Murphy, Michael’s daughter and the office’s project manager, had nothing but praise for Tripp. “Holli is excellent. She is far beyond most people her age. She’s doing work that we’ve been able to use. It’s beyond us teaching — she’s producing results.” During her internship hours at the architect’s office, Tripp works on drawings, background floor plans, rough elevation, interior and exterior elevations, and square footage take offs. Tripp has changed her career path a smidge and is now pursuing a career in engineering. She aspires to become a structural engineer. Michael Kent Murphy said that he is lucky that Tripp had extensive exposure to hard work and craftsmanship prior to starting at his firm. Tripp’s father owns a welding and steel fabrication business. “Her construction background is very advanced. She understands the mechanics of construction,” he said. Murphy said that Tripp is the best intern he’s ever seen. “She conducts herself in a very professional manner,” he said. Tripp has been drafting since her freshman year. For her senior project, Tripp originally planned to tackle the incredible feat of building a structural model of her family’s house. It was in her junior year that she started the plans for the house. “It’s not a conventional house,” Tripp explained. “It’s made out of steel. My dad always says that if you’re going to build something, you should build it to last. So, I chose steel.” The family’s home is actually being built from Tripp’s plans. Since beginning her senior project, Tripp has changed her course and is now steering her project toward architectural renderings. Instead of turning in the structural blue prints, she is going to learn how to do architectural renderings and apply it to her house. Tripp said she decided on the change because her instructors said the project should be a stretch. “The plans were more of a time management issue than a new challenge for me,” Tripp said. The product of the project will be elevation views of her house in four different rendering techniques. She’ll do black and white sketches, colored pencil, marker and one other. “Each technique will be done for all of the elevations; north, south east and west and in the end I will have 16 drawings to present,” Tripp said. Murphy is Tripp’s mentor for the project. “Learning how to render is going to be a great employment skill in the future. I’m grateful to be in the position to have such a fantastic mentor because of ROP,” she said. This motivated, 4.0 student is also a team leader of the ACE Mentor Program that Dolan advises. The ACE Mentor Program of Greater Sacramento introduces interested high school students to the building industry’s wide range of exciting career opportunities. The group was presented with a project at the beginning of the year. They were charged with the redesign of the old PG&E Power House in Sacramento to present to the City Council. Tripp pitched her group to redesign the Power House into a museum with a water emphasis. She envisioned the museum as a benefit to the community. She felt the location and concept would be a perfect match. The class voted and they have focused the project on the water museum with Tripp at the helm. “Mr. Dolan allows the class to work out their issues among themselves and does not dictate the situations. I have learned how to handle frustrating situations professionally and not allow my emotions to get the best of me. ROP has been a great learning experience and is something that could not have been matched with regular classroom instruction,” Tripp said. Murphy has been quite impressed with Tripp. “Holli says she’s never had a job before so her parents and her teachers seem to have done an incredible job of preparing her for the real world,” he said. “She is a real professional.”