School: The Ohio State University
Major: Civil Engineering
Company: Kokosing Construction Company
Internship from May 9, 2016 — August 12, 2016
My name is Allyson Fomich and I am a second-year student at The Ohio State University. I am studying civil engineering with a double minor in Spanish and Humanitarian Engineering. This past summer, I had the fantastic opportunity of being the Assistant Field Engineer on a highway extension project in my hometown; it ended up being precisely the experience I was hoping for.
I am fascinated by construction. I love driving over bridges and imagining the years it may have taken for such a structurally intricate concept to be designed, and the teamwork and extensive coordination required to carry out the task. I love the concept of creating something to withstand any extreme of weather, with the ability to remain sound through circumstances far more severe than will ever occur. I love the intricate balance of affordability and safety that must be kept at constant perfection for success to be achieved. While there are many great products out there, I can’t think of a single person that isn’t impacted throughout their entire day by safety measures and hard work put forth by every facet of the construction industry–whether that be residential, commercial, or industrial. To design, build, or oversee the construction of a road that improves the lives of every single person who drives on it is unfathomably great to me. I aim to improve the lives of others in a way that doesn’t discriminate—we all need house, roads, and so much more offered by construction. Someday, I aim to apply my skills and experience in construction to work on humanitarian engineering projects to benefit the lives of others. But no matter what area I choose, I know that any kind of construction will leave me satisfied knowing that I’m impacting lives in more ways that I can imagine.
What results did you achieve on the internship, and how did you exceed the company's expectations for your role?
I had no idea what to expect my role to be when I walked in the company trailer for the first day, and I learned later that the project engineer “in charge” of me didn’t really either. At first, it was quite the learning experience (for both me and him) having had zero construction experience. However, I was never afraid to ask questions (there were quite a few), and didn’t realize how much I had been learning until my knowledge was put to the test. I began to gain more and more responsibility. This design-build job was unique in the sense that it spanned only three-quarters of a mile, yet had an exceedingly large amount of underground work. I spent hours a day learning and absorbing the plan sheets, and was soon able to discuss the project with visitors and contribute in project meetings. I jumped at every opportunity to go on site, which was usually daily, and came away with more questions and excitement every time. One of my favorite moments, where my inner-engineer had a chance to really come out, was due to some unique circumstances. We received a rebar shipment for one of the head wall structures that was completely inaccurate. I had approved the plans submitted to the manufacturer—those were not it. My boss assigned me with the potentially unsolvable problem of “rebuilding” the structure using the given parts and the extra pieces sent as an apology from the manufacturer. With my exceedingly long safety vest (size small doesn’t seem to exist) and stack of shop drawings, I sat in our storage lot for four hours sifting through piles of rebar, waving to all of the operators and superintends as they periodically drove past and saw that I was “still there.”
The hard work was beyond worth it when I slammed open the trailer, with maybe a tad bit much enthusiasm, and announced that the Rebar Puzzle was solved. I had saved the company money, time, and three weeks of waiting for a new assembly—and the feeling of being an asset was beyond rewarding.
What did you learn in this internship that will affect your life in a positive way?
One of the biggest takeaways from this internship was the value in working through imperfect circumstances. I learned more from dealing with incorrect orders, disgruntled homeowners, and confused manufactures than I would have had everything gone “As Per Plan.” One of my biggest learning experiences was working with subcontractors, and all the guts and glory that tends to come with it. For example, there was an incident due to incorrectly marked wires that led to major utility damage. When the lead engineer and I were called out to survey the damage, I was selfishly excited, as I got to witness the intricate process of wire splicing on such a large scale.
I also have a greater appreciation for the role teamwork and social skills play on any kind of project. I had the luxury of working with an experienced, safety-minded crew that demonstrated how effective good leadership and communication is. Problems were taken in stride and dealt with as they came. The project engineer I worked with also had a hands-on approach that led to some pretty unbelievable experiences, such as driving a dump truck, walking through creeks to check erosion control, and using a crescent wrench to open utility boxes beside a live highway (that was definitely a new experience for me). It became so clear to me how effective it is to maintain constant communication and interaction with the crews, to both gain their respect and offer support in the field. The best part? This mentality extends so much further than construction sites. I have a greater understanding of how to respectfully approach a chain of command or make tough decisions.
How were you involved with safety and/or quality during your internship, and how did that change your perspective on construction?
During my internship, I was in awe of the myriad facets of construction that must be constantly reviewed, improved, or re-done in the name of safety. Things I never would have considered– such as the infinite protocols followed by the dedicated laborers– were so crucial to the safety of both the workers and the public for years to come. I was in charge of handling our weekly Safety Talks. Every Monday, every employee on the site gathered around the trailer as we discussed the Safety Concern of the week. This ranged from heat protection, safe mounting/dismounting of equipment, fall protection or erosion control. I was able to witness and learn as pipe-layers, operators, or other laborers were given the opportunity to share concerns they had about any current construction, such as missing caps on the rebar structures that had been recently installed. Throughout the summer, I began to develop a trained eye for what was safe and what wasn’t. I learned to understand the unbelievable amount of time dedicated to the safety of workers, and the utmost gravity that was held by anyone in charge. As I drive down the highway and see any kind of construction work being done, I now have a newfound appreciation for the efforts towards safety that I see.
I was also pleasantly surprised at the effort that is put towards environmental protection. The Project Engineer and I completely regular erosion inspections, which were both tedious and time consuming. Yet, thank goodness we did–there was a particular instance in which we discovered a local creek had become brown, causing great concern for the lake it was funneling to. We took immediate action and followed it to the source, finding that a storm had damaged and existing structure, therefor allowing dirt from the job site to bypass our environmental protection measures. I now take note when I drive through a job site without adequate dust control, or other improper erosion measures.
In general, I now have a greater understanding and passion for the importance of safety and quality on any kind of construction project–whether it short term for the workers, or long term for the public.
After reviewing www.IBuildAmerica.com, tell us what I Build America means to you?
I got goosebumps watching the videos complied by I Build America. While I only spent a summer with the crews on the project, every day I gained a newfound respect for the work they did without complaint. Even with something as silly as removing a skunk from our trailer (yes, that happened), we had a pipe-laying crew within minutes show up, asking how they can help.
I Build America aims to make the world more aware of the value construction offers to our daily lives. Being able to work on a project in my hometown gave me an appreciation for the importance construction offers the general public. Every day, my parents would be stuck in the traffic our project aims to fix on their way to work. My friends discussed in casual conversation the detour I helped set up, making it clear how impactful the efficiency that workers provide is to those using it. I had the opportunity of people with so much field experience, they grasped concepts of physics and chemistry that is typically taught in a college classroom. This type of dedication and determination deserves every ounce of respect from the public who benefits from it directly. I support I Build America’s mission to create a sense of pride in the individuals who literally lay the foundation on which America operates—whether it be our houses, products, transportation, places of work, or more. I wish I had had more exposure to the excitement and value offered by construction prior to my collegiate career and I Build America offers just that to so many young individuals by sharing specific examples, videos, and projects that deserve the world’s respect and appreciation.
I found myself fueled with inspiration for my next internship this summer as I looked through the content of I Build America’s website. I hope that companies, workers, or potential construction career holders gain the same kind appreciation and pride that should be held by all of society towards construction.