500+ interns compete to design a light show that best reflects local employers

MILWAUKEE – The third annual Intern Challenge will light up the iconic Daniel Hoan Bridge for another year – and the program has grown even more. With more than 500+ interns participating from 16 different Milwaukee-area companies, the Intern Challenge has grown to nearly double the size of the inaugural event held in 2021. Presented by Northwestern Mutual, the Light the Hoan organization is challenging teams of interns to code light shows that best represent their company in honor of National Intern Day on July 27th, 2023.

The rapid increase in program size reflects how Milwaukee companies are investing in interns as part of their long-term workforce and infrastructure strategies for the City. The event will be an opportunity for interns, some of whom have relocated to Milwaukee from across the country, to professionally collaborate in-person while building relationships, demonstrating their talents, and showcasing the intersection between art and technology. The event will reinforce the growing access to opportunities within Milwaukee’s flourishing reputation as a tech hub.

“The intern challenge is something that is unique to Milwaukee and developed specifically for local interns to assist in attracting and retaining talent,” said Erika Smith, Executive Director of Light the Hoan. “We’re excited to continue to demonstrate how Light the Hoan is about more than just lights on a bridge.”

Interns from sixteen local companies including last year’s participants from American Family Insurance, Baird, Johnson Controls, Generac, Johnson Financial Group, MolsonCoors, Rockwell Automation, WE Energies, Milwaukee Tool, Direct Supply and last year’s winner – Northwestern Mutual – will develop light shows they feel best represents their company’s brand and culture. Light the Hoan welcomes five new teams competing for the first time from Husco, Perlick, CNH Industrial, West Bend Mutual Insurance, and Visit Milwaukee!

Employers realize that cultivating interns into successful full-time team members requires an investment in company culture, while also creating a sense of camaraderie and belonging in the city each company calls home.

To kick off this year’s Intern Challenge, Johnson Controls will sponsor an intern mixer event on July 17th, complete with a DJ, light show synced with music sponsored by Generac, food trucks, beverages sponsored by MolsonCoors and a ton of interactive games. New this year is an appearance from the Navy, onsite t-shirt printing from Cream City Print Lounge, and portraits from RADillustrates.

Starting July 17th, companies will compete “bracket-style” with each unique light display shown on the Hoan Bridge over the course of four nights. The public will have the opportunity to vote for their favorite designs at Teams with the most votes will advance to the next night’s round of competition until an overall winner is crowned on July 21st. The interns who designed the winning light show will receive a complimentary round trip ticket from Southwest Airlines and the winning company will receive a traveling trophy that they can proudly display until next year’s challenge.

The Intern Challenge has received an overwhelming positive response from the community the past two years.

“This unique and rewarding program provides the opportunity for us to reflect on our corporate values, meaningfully engage early talent, promote local partners who are making a difference, and celebrate the great city of Milwaukee,” said Jonah Turner, Head of Emerging Tech at MolsonCoors. “ I am extremely proud to lead these initiatives focused on creative thinking and collaborative outreach and be part of an organization that fosters a culture of purpose and is committed to enriching the community.”

Prior to starting the design process, participating interns will attend two-hour training sessions that will provide an overview of the bridge’s coding software. Throughout the competition, interns will have the opportunity to experience conveying messages and feeling with the use of light and motion, practice pitching ideas, work collaboratively on teams, develop and apply design skills, and connect with the regional intern community. They will also gain understanding of the lighting mechanisms used to power the Hoan Bridge.


Light the Hoan is a nonprofit organization lighting up and uniting Milwaukee. In May 2018, a collective of local business and civic leaders launched a public crowdsourcing campaign to help raise more than $3.5 million to illuminate the Daniel Hoan Memorial Bridge, the iconic tied-arch bridge spanning nearly two miles across Interstate 794. The lights on the bridge were officially lit in October 2020 and light up nightly at sunset.