School: Penn State University
Major: Mechanical Engineering
Company: Commerce Construction Corporation
Internship from May 16, 2016 — August 12, 2016
My name is Dan Hinks. I am a Junior Mechanical Engineering student at Penn State. I have always been interested in building things, which is the reason I chose engineering. My father is a steel fabricator and has shown me some of the building projects that he has done over the years (mostly steel awnings and structural steel for buildings), which I find fascinating. I am also interested in the project management side of the construction business. It is awesome to see large construction projects come together and produce a finished product. I am currently working for Commerce Construction Corporation – a Marine Construction/ Pile driving contractor for the summer. The reason I wanted to join the team at Commerce was because I am able to get a look at their project management, bidding, subcontract agreements, and also the execution of their projects in the field. It is also a very interesting line of work because I am able to experience the work environment of ports and oil refineries on the docks of the Delaware River.
What results did you achieve on the internship, and how did you exceed the company's expectations for your role?
My internship this summer has consisted of me working on project management at the office with the estimators and also working in the field with the construction superintendents. I have been involved hands on with the bidding on several dockbuilding, pile driving, and demolition jobs. I’ve gotten quotes from companies on things such as pipe piles, sheet piles, structural steel H-Beams, poured concrete, anchor bolts, and timber pieces. I’ve also been able to look at drawings and do material takeoffs for some of the smaller jobs that my company does. This has included finding cubic yardage of poured concrete, finding type and quantity of different piles, and other various pieces of wood and steel that go into construction. My company works on many oil refineries along the Delaware River near Philadelphia, so I have had to run small tasks for the superintendents such as escorting trucks around the Sunoco Logistics Oil Refinery in Marcus Hook PA, taking notes at meetings with the engineers, supervising the construction work done by the union dockbuilders, and picking up materials at the gate. The team at Commerce Construction has also put me in charge of simple tasks like setting up a recycling program for the office, updating their website with current project information, and purchasing a utility vehicle for job site use. I think that I’ve done a good job of communicating with the different people I work with. I believe that I have done all of my tasks in an efficient and timely manner that has genuinely benefited the company.
What did you learn in this internship that will affect your life in a positive way?
My internship taught me a lot about the construction business in general. Going into the summer, I was unsure of how contracted construction projects worked. I was fortunate to be able to see each different part of this: from the pre-bid meetings to the final estimating and bidding, to the submittals to engineers and procurement of materials, to the general construction management of the dockbuilders. My internship also taught me how to function better in the professional world. I attended pre-bid meetings with other companies and talked with vendors on a daily basis, which taught me to speak in a respectful and straightforward way. It was also very helpful to be able to work with such a good company with experts in the business who told me what made them successful. I think my experience with construction has made me a better employee in general going forward.
How were you involved with safety and/or quality during your internship, and how did that change your perspective on construction?
My company does the majority of its work at oil refineries on the river, so therefore I had to go through several classes on safety before being able to go to the job sites. I also got to be around the company’s safety people constantly. They told me many stories about some of the accidents they have seen on different jobs and why they take as many precautions as they can to prevent future accidents. Dockbuilding is a dangerous line of work- the workers work with things such as swinging crane booms with long steel piles, confined spaces where dangerous gases have to be measured, exposed rebar on walkways, pile cutoffs, etc. This is why my company always decided to be cautious, even if it meant prolonging the work schedule.
After reviewing www.IBuildAmerica.com, tell us what I Build America means to you?
I Build America is interesting to me because I agree with the fact that not all Americans really appreciate the value that construction brings to our daily society. It seems to me that a lot of the people that I have grown up with and have now moved on to the workforce and college never really seem very interested in careers in construction. I personally liked the line “Construction provides the water we drink, the roads we drive on, and the houses we live in.” I think that this line is important because it means that there will always be a need for construction jobs. During my internship, I witnessed the danger that my company’s workers faced – in particular swinging crane booms, driving heavy steel piles into the ground, burning and taking out huge sections of walkway, and working in confined spaces. When my company’s current job is done, they will have built a working pier used to transport gases for consumer use. This will in turn help provide energy to Americans.