School: University of Alaska Fairbanks
Major: Civil Engineering
Company: The State of Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities
Internship from May 23, 2016 — August 19, 2016
My name is Kirsten Loaiza, I worked as an engineering intern for the State of Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOT&PF). I am currently pursuing an undergraduate degree in civil engineering with a focus in transportation engineering at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. I was born and raised in Fairbanks, AK which is why I chose to attend the University of Alaska Fairbanks. When I first began attending UAF, I didn’t know which major I was interested in. I explored other majors until finding my interest in civil engineering. While taking engineering classes, I took an interest in transportation engineering. As a child, I would ask my parents about different features on the highway. I would ask my parents questions like, why the on ramps to the expressway were so long and who decided the length needed. Highway design always intrigued me because I had so many questions. So what better way to find these answers than to take college courses in this area. To increase my knowledge of transportation engineering, I enrolled in the following courses: highway, bituminous materials, and construction cost analysis and bid preparation. These classes have given me an overview of different aspects of road construction from cost estimating to design. The summer of my junior year, I began looking for internships where I would be able to gain field experience in transportation. I had my heart set on interning with the DOT&PF in Fairbanks, AK. I wanted to be involved in road construction and to see the full process of a road project, from start and finish. I felt that DOT&PF would be a good opportunity to gain experience in multiple areas of road construction. I have always wondered how roads were constructed and the steps required to design a road. After gaining more field experience in road construction, I would like to move to highway design.
What results did you achieve on the internship, and how did you exceed the company's expectations for your role?
During my internship I was assigned to work in Valdez, AK on a river encroachment project. The Lowe River has been growing steadily closer to the Richardson Highway. This project consisted of working at two different areas of interest for diverting the river, mile point 6.5 and mile point 12.5 of the Richardson Highway. At mile point 12.5 rip rap would be installed and the slope of the channel realigned. At milepoint 6.5, a multiplate culvert pipe would be installed and the road would be raised 12 feet to prevent future flooding. For this project I was assigned to take densities on the pipe bedding material, the borrow material that was being used to raise the road. As the project continued, my project engineer began giving me more assignments during the day. Instead of being only responsible for densities, he would include me in decisions made on the project and ask my opinion. This was very helpful because I was able to see how decisions were made and what were the main factors for these decisions. For instance, he allowed me to be the main inspector for the installment of rumble strips, signs, and painted road markings. He was not on the jobsite those days and I was responsible for reading the specifications and determining if the specifications were being met. I was very nervous to be inspecting these features since I had yet to be working solo on the jobsite. It was a confidence boost for me because my project engineer trusted me with these tasks. I was welcomed by my crew and was lucky to be assigned to a project where so many people were helpful and dedicated to helping me learn as much about DOT in just a couple months time. I helped with multiple tasks: densities, inspecting, paperwork, meetings, etc. The internship offered through the State of Alaska DOT&PF is what you make of it. You get the experience you seek out. You need to be afraid to not ask questions and put yourself out there to gain the experience. What you put into the internship is what you will get out of it. I was fortunate enough to be placed with a crew where I wasn’t afraid to ask questions and who pushed me. I think I exceeded the expectations set for me because I was always asking questions and trying to understand as much as I could. I did this by shadowing multiple members on my team to see and learn their job responsibilities. At the end of the season, I received a positive employer evaluation from my project engineer. I was told by each of my crew members that I was more than they expected from an intern and hope that I continue on with DOT&PF. I think my positive attitude and thirst to learn was a crucial part in exceeding their expectations.
What did you learn in this internship that will affect your life in a positive way?
This internship taught me both social and work experience that will have a positive aspect in my life. I learned how to effectively communicate to contractors and build mutually respectful relationships. I also learned how to work with people of different backgrounds in order to achieve an end goal. Learning how to communicate with people is such an important part of road construction. Clear communication ensures that the project is built according to the plans. The work experience I gained on this project will have a positive aspect on my life because I want to move to the design department for the DOT&PF. By gaining the hands on experience in the field it will prepare me for design. Seeing how road construction operates to build a road and how important plans are put an emphasis on understanding the build process. Overall, road construction affected my life in a positive way because for once, it didn’t feel like a job for me. I was excited to go to work and to learn new things. It was exciting to be out on grade and helping. Seeing the end product was such a rush and thrilling because I had spent 3 months on this project and to the end product was very exciting. This internship was a good foot in the door for me to decide if I enjoyed road construction enough to choose this as a career path.
How were you involved with safety and/or quality during your internship, and how did that change your perspective on construction?
I was involved with safety during my internship during the monthly safety meetings held. The DOT&PF crew I was working with would meet up monthly to discuss any unsafe behavior we witnessed on our projects and suggestions to be more focused on safety the following month. Safety is a huge component of focus at the DOT&PF. A large portion of the orientation at DOT&PF was emphasized on safety and ensuring not only our personal safety but others safety as well. Working for the DOT&PF I was quality assurance on the job. I worked with the contractor to ensure the job was done according to specifications, standards, and the plans. Building the project according to specifications is important for safety and mobility, a way to connect one another both socially and economically. Having quality assurance on a project is important to keep operations moving and to be built according to the plans. My perspective changed about construction because I never realized how much attention to detail there was. Each part of the project has a standard specification and needs to be tested to ensure it is in accordance. Each material of the project is inspected and tested from the material used to raise the road to the culvert material. The cost of road construction projects was something I learned from this internship. The cost is a huge driving factor when it comes time to begin construction on these projects. Road construction projects are very expensive but are important to provide access to communities. Since each project costs so much, ensuring that it lasts for as long as possible is important. Construction has an impact on communities and is a crucial part to each community. Providing convenient means of travel is important.
After reviewing www.IBuildAmerica.com, tell us what I Build America means to you?
I Build America is about creating a future for our society to use to connect one another and to grow as a country. Roads are used to connect one another, from our homes to our companies. Roads are such a vital means of transportation both socially and economically. After watching the I Build America video I felt pride in the work I did this summer for road construction. It is about being proud to help develop our country by moving forward in the construction field. Construction is the base of change; change that can modernize our country to be continue growth and advancement.