School: The University of Texas at El Paso
Major: Civil Engineering
Company: Granite Construction Company
Internship from March 14, 2016 — September 16, 2016
My name is Ariana Castanon Leos, and since March of 2016 I have had the opportunity to intern with Granite Construction Company on the El Paso Streetcar, a project out of the Granite Construction Arizona Region. I am currently a junior at The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) majoring in Civil Engineering. The El Paso Streetcar project involves placing 4.8 miles of track running from Downtown El Paso to the University of Texas at El Paso and the Uptown Entertainment District, overhead cable system, and building a maintenance storage facility.
I came across Granite at the university career expo, and began exploring the idea of an internship in construction. Coming into this internship I had no previous experience in the construction industry, and wasn’t quite sure of what to expect. Choosing to accept this internship was a decision to challenge myself to grow not only academically but professionally, to help me gain hands on experience and insight as to what it would be like to be a civil engineer in the construction industry.
What results did you achieve on the internship, and how did you exceed the company's expectations for your role?
Upon starting this internship, I knew that my employer’s expectation of an intern was to have a willingness to learn and grasp the work quickly to be able to do tasks efficiently and correctly. During the first few weeks of interning I spent time working with and shadowing several of the project engineer’s in the field to familiarize myself with construction in general, and was assigned tasks such as compiling weekly work reports for the owner, as well as maintaining utility locates throughout the project. I was also immediately introduced to HCSS HeavyJob as a means to track rental equipment hours, for which I had to maintain weekly rental reconciliation. Anytime I was asked to complete a new task I didn’t hesitate to learn what was involved, and ask if I was unsure of something. As I became familiar with the way the project functioned, I was willing to take on more and learn as much as I could. I got involved with the document control aspect of the project, in which I was responsible for sending Requests for Information (RFI’s), submittals, weekly reports, certified payroll, subcontractor approvals, project meeting minutes and submitting agendas to the owner. Aside the weekly items that I was responsible for, I was open to learning more and took on other tasks ranging from takeoffs, SWPPP device tracking, and temporary traffic control training.
What did you learn in this internship that will affect your life in a positive way?
From this internship I have learned that keeping open lines of communication in a project between the owner, construction manager, contractor and subcontractors is vital to staying on schedule and on budget. I was able to learn how to communicate with all of the different parties involved, through attending weekly project wide construction meetings, learned how the work of each group for the project is important to stay on schedule and make adjustments for unforeseen circumstances. I have learned that everyone involved on a project, regardless of their role, will have some sort of impact. After attending the first concrete pour, which had to take place at 2 a.m. rather than daytime hours, due to summer heat in the desert, I gained a new respect for construction and everyone who works in construction because of the countless hours of labor and work that go into something like prepping and pouring concrete for rail tracks. I have also gained an appreciation for other construction projects knowing that some of my co-workers may be miles away from home working on this project to meet a deadline. The general public may see our closures and detours as an inconvenience, they may not realize the amount of preparation and work that goes into construction projects that will help a city thrive for years to come. Something really unique that I learned was the importance of giving back to the community; Being born and raised in El Paso, then being hired for a project in my hometown allowed me to view my city from an outside perspective working with an out of town company. I was surprised by the efforts of the company to volunteer with several community organizations as a way to show appreciation for the opportunity to those affected by the work.
How were you involved with safety and/or quality during your internship, and how did that change your perspective on construction?
While working with Granite Construction I have come to realize that safety is more than statistics, it is a culture that is important to every single person on a project. Having everybody aware of their surroundings and inspecting sites ensures that all will go home in the same condition in which they arrived to work at the beginning of their shift.
To go along with the strong safety culture that Granite has instilled in each of their projects, a team from our project submitted a safety video to the company safety video contest. I participated in, edited, and submitted the video for our streetcar project team. Our video served as a reminder why each of us on the project works safely so that we are able to go home at the end of the work day to enjoy family time and the hobbies we each enjoy. By learning the importance of safety I was able to assist in orientation with new hires and emphasize the importance of safety.
This summer throughout my internship I was able to take two courses in temporary traffic control including the Traffic Control Technician, and Traffic Control Supervisor courses. Taking these courses taught me the importance of safety for anyone involved in the project from workers all the way down to those affected by detours and closures.
Before my internship with Granite Construction my knowledge of quality control and assurance was very limited. During the first concrete trackslab pour and field work; I got to experience and learn how quality impacts a project and schedule. Although Quality control was taken care of by a subcontractor, I was able to observe concrete pours and rebar inspections I was able to learn how to interpret quality reports to ensure that the work being done follows specifications and requirements.
After reviewing www.IBuildAmerica.com, tell us what I Build America means to you?
I Build America serves as a network for others to gain insight into the industry from the stories of construction workers around the country, and is a way to for those involved in construction to show the value that their work brings to improving and progressing America. The construction industry is one where many people don’t realize the work and risk that is involved for the men and women that go to work each day to build America. I Build America is a means for everyone to show their appreciation and understanding for those involved in construction, and has served as inspiration for me to want to stay involved in the industry from a construction/ civil engineering perspective. I Build America allows for the work of the construction industry to be thought of in a different light, and educate the public on what construction actually.