School: Michigan Technological University
Major: Civil Engineering
Company: Meyer Contracting Inc.
Internship from May 16, 2016 — August 15, 2016
My name is Emily Gamm. I will be a junior at Michigan Technological University majoring in Civil Engineering. I worked as a student worker at the Minnesota Department of Transportation Bridge Office during the summers of 2014 and 2015 primarily with the bridge construction department. When I got the internship at the Bridge Office I was only a senior in high school and I did not know what to expect going into it and did not know much about Civil Engineering. I was able to work with many different people at MnDOT and got to see all different sides of Civil Engineering. For example, I was given the opportunity during the first summer at MnDOT to work with the bridge design, inspection, hydraulics, and construction departments. After working with each of these departments I decided bridge construction was something I would love to learn more about and spent the summer of 2015 working with the bridge construction engineers.
This summer I decided to do something a little different and got an internship working with Meyer Contracting Inc as a field engineer intern. I had the choice to either work with MnDOT again or with Meyer. This was a very difficult decision for me because MnDOT had offered me a position working with an inspector on the St. Croix Crossing Bridge Project which I had been dreaming about being a part of since I began working with MnDOT. After many phone calls and emails I ended up choosing Meyer because I wanted to get a feel for working with a private contractor and I wanted field experience that would give me more experience with construction. I chose to do an internship in construction because I wanted to see a project develop from the ground up versus seeing it on a plan. This summer I was assigned to work on a road reconstruction project on Highway 5 in Chanhassen, MN which included the installation of storm sewer and an infiltration basin.
What results did you achieve on the internship, and how did you exceed the company's expectations for your role?
I was able to contribute to the project by entering time and quantities into Heavy Job along with recording trucking hours and quantities into a detailed spreadsheet. Quantities were compared with those found in the MnDOT plans so I could see where we were losing time and money. This was vital because the project was already behind schedule and it was my job to help the assistant project manager in finding ways to make up time. In order for excavation to be completed, I needed to submit locate tickets so any underground fibers, cables, or pipe could be unearthed prior to digging. I was also able to help on the job site by assisting with setting grade and any other tasks that needed an extra hand. The project I was a part of did not have a foreman so the superintendent had to fulfill the position of both the foreman and superintendent. With my help he was able to get more done within a shorter period of time.
Unfortunately, overall the project did not do well. Meyer lost a decent amount of money due to loss of time and productivity. The project was completed according to the MnDOT plan, but it didn’t go as well as Meyer was hoping.
What did you learn in this internship that will affect your life in a positive way?
One thing I learned from this internship is that I am a visual learner and being out in the field allowed me to see how a road is constructed. Before working in construction I thought a road was just a layer of gravel covered in concrete or asphalt. Now I know that a road is much more complicated than that. A few things that I learned that will definitely affect my life in a positive way include never be afraid to ask questions, stay organized, let your opinion be heard, and teamwork is vital. Asking questions and letting your opinion be heard go hand in hand on a job site. If someone fails to ask questions about anything, something could go wrong later and could be detrimental to the project. Also, if someone keeps opinions to themselves they could be keeping valuable knowledge from aiding the project. I think good teamwork skills is one of the most important things to have when on a construction job site because if no one works together the job will never get done. One thing I learned from the project itself was that not everything will go as planned which can be frustrating. It is important to keep an open mind and do the best one can do when a project is not doing well. Along with everything I learned during this internship, I was also able to step out of my comfort zone and experience a lot more that will aid to my future schooling and work.
How were you involved with safety and/or quality during your internship, and how did that change your perspective on construction?
Every morning before work started on the job site, we had a job hazard analysis meeting which I contributed to greatly. It helped me realize how many hazards are on a job site and which precautions need to be taken for each hazard. Being on a job site all summer has opened my eyes to how dangerous of a job construction can be especially when it comes to equipment and traffic. Communication and eye contact are vital in maintaining a safe work environment along with staying compliant. If safety and quality protocols are ignored the consequences can be huge. Before working on a construction site, I did not pay much attention to what was happening on each site. Now I am able to understand how much work is put in day to day and how many people risk their lives to make roads, buildings, bridges etc., safer for everyone else. This summer, Meyer Contracting reached a milestone by going 1,000 days with zero lost time injuries. I was honored to be able to work with a company that values the safety of it’s employees.
After reviewing www.IBuildAmerica.com, tell us what I Build America means to you?
I Build America confirmed for me that construction is overlooked. Anyone in construction works in extremely difficult conditions and environments and the job can be dangerous. Most people don’t understand how much work and how many hours are put into construction to make everyone’s way of life better. I Build America is an organization that brings the construction community together and I think it is also a great tool to help others learn about what the industry does. I think I Build America plays a critical role in demonstrating the importance of the construction industry and it helps construction employees earn the recognition they deserve for all the hard work they put in each day.