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


MILWAUKEE  – The second annual Internship Challenge will light up the iconic Daniel Hoan Bridge for a second year– and the program is better than ever. With more than 400 interns participating from 12 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 29, 2022. 


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 complex intersection between art and technology. The event will also support nonprofit organizations and reinforce the growing access to opportunities within Milwaukee’s flourishing reputation as a tech hub. 


“The Internship Challenge is a great opportunity for local interns to experience a renaissance of the Milwaukee workforce while collaborating with other young professionals,” saids Michael Holstad, President and Co-Founder of Light the Hoan. “The challenge positions interns as a bridge between tech and art while bringing attention to Milwaukee’s expanding infrastructure and involvement in the community.”


Interns from twelve local companies including Northwestern Mutual, Quarles & Brady, American Family Insurance, Baird, Johnson Controls, Generac, Johnson Financial Group, MolsonCoors, Rockwell Automation, WE Energies, Milwaukee Tool, and last year’s winner – Direct Supply – will develop light shows they feel best represents their company’s brand and culture. 


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 25th, complete with a live band, DJ, fireworks, food trucks, a lounge built and sponsored by Milwaukee Tool.


Throughout the Intern Challenge, 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 engage with businesses, nonprofits, and Light the Hoan by voting for their favorite designs at Each individual intern on the winning team will receive a complimentary round trip ticket from Southwest Airlines. <Donation amount> will also be donated to a local charity of the winning team’s choice. 


The Intern Challenge has received an overwhelming positive response from the community, including from past participants.


“The whole idea behind this competition is wonderful. I love bringing more attention to Milwaukee and the opportunity to work with a team to represent my company,” said 2021 intern Jennifer Dehler, who has since been hired full-time by American Family Insurance, with whom she interned last summer.  “I enjoyed the ease of creating the light show, and the new experience and knowledge I’ve gained from it.” 


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 in order to demonstrate how the Intern Challenge has expanded to invest more deeply into the City of Milwaukee.




A collective of local business and civic leaders, Light the Hoan is nonprofit lighting up and uniting Milwaukee. In May 2018, the group 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.