School: University of Massachusetts Lowell
Major: Civil and Environmental Engineering
Company: Middlesex Corporation
Internship from May 23, 2016 — August 26, 2016
I am a senior studying Civil Engineering at the University of Massachusetts Lowell and had my first construction internship this past summer at Middlesex Corporation. Since I was very young, my father was as interested as I was when it came to construction. We would always choose to take the longer route if it meant passing by a construction site. My father would point out the tools being used, the equipment and how it worked, as well as what the project would turn into. We would pass by different sites enough to see the project turn from an empty lot into sky scrapers and bridge footings. Although neither of my parents received a college education, they did everything in their power to assure that I was given every opportunity possible. My parents brought me home everything from cups to stack, Lego kits, to my first tool set. In 7th grade, I had a Tech ED or ‘wood shop’ class in middle school. Our project was to design, build, and test a Popsicle bridge. From then on I knew I wanted to be an Engineer. I started looking for ways to experience engineering right away and started working at the Museum of Science my freshman year of high school. There I took an engineering workshop over the summer, designed a wind turbine activity, and finally created an entire preschool engineering exhibit. After that I began college at UMass Lowell where I joined every ASCE club possible including; concrete canoe, steel bridge, became K-12 outreach coordinator, Merrimack Walkway Project Leader, and helped with Mass State projects such as a pavement assessment, 9/11 memorial, and surveying a hang glider at a military base in Cape Cod. My sophomore and junior year summers I interned in Revere City Hall’s Engineering Department. This is where I gained the majority of my engineering experiences and was fortunate enough to see how State projects got put to bid, funded, and executed. I was also exposed to plans for the first times- dates ranging from the early 1900’s to more current times. I quickly found that although all the information I had received and all that I had learned at this internship was interesting, I did not like sitting inside all day. I wanted to go out and see what the plans and papers were describing. That is when I pursued an internship in construction and was fortunate enough to be hired as a construction field engineering intern. Middlesex’s current project in Beverly consists of replacing a two mile long road that stretches over train tracks. I have been able to see roads, sidewalks, and curbs be removed as well as put in along each phase. Being mostly in the field, I am able to ask people in different positions questions on their construction experience. Everyone’s unique taste on different projects has only fueled my drive more to work more in the construction field and experience various projects.
What results did you achieve on the internship, and how did you exceed the company's expectations for your role?
The main purpose of my internship was to gather quantities and estimate take off values for various aspects of the job. For example, I would use BlueBeam to measure areas on the plans such as sidewalks. I would then break up the amounts into phases. When the subcontractors came to place the concrete sidewalks, I would estimate the amount needed to complete the task as well as keep track of how much we actually used. Then, I would measure what was actually placed and put as much detail as possible such as dimensions and locations within an Excel spreadsheet. After that, I would split the quantities measured into Estimates which would be approved by the state for payment. Often times the company’s numbers did not match the states because items such as sidewalks do not have a clear cut answer. Wheelchair transition ramps, driveways, and regular sidewalks are all priced differently. As well as the design on the sidewalks. With so much information, it was often easily confused. I was very thorough with my measurements and calculations. Because I took so much time in my spreadsheets making sure everything was documented in case there was a later issue, the state often favored my numbers in estimates. I was often recognized and applauded by coworkers in the amount of detail I recorded and how it often was easier to find information I had gathered. Each day, I took quantity numbers and measured each of the four to five crews work from the previous day as well as the sub-contractors. I feel that I definitely fulfilled my position in just needing to get measurements but I feel that I exceeded what was expected and with my attention to detail and organization skills, made estimates to the state a much easier and accurate process.
What did you learn in this internship that will affect your life in a positive way?
As this was my first construction experience, I was very nervous as to how I would be perceived and treated as a woman on site. Being a senior, I have known some of my classmates all four years of college. We have all become good friends and they often joke around about me being a woman in a male dominant field. I do not mind when my classmates make comments because they immediately look to me for guidance and opinions on projects and homework. At school I feel comfortable being an equal but I came into my internship with a slightly negative outlook because I thought my coworkers would not see me the same. As I went on site more, pedestrians crossing site and neighbors that I needed to talk to for work scheduling, often asked why, as a girl, I was on a construction site. At first, I was slightly uncomfortable with the question because it seemed that it was frowned upon and not accepted- as if I should be pursuing a better career, but as the days and weeks went on, I realized that the people in the community I talked to were more pleasantly shocked that I was pursuing construction. Neighbors would tell me how they could never do what I was doing when they were younger and that they are happy to see more women on site. Very quickly the people I worked with not only welcomed me but made me feel like I was immediately part of the team. All of them were very helpful sharing their insight and experiences with me because they knew I needed to learn more. They often showed and taught me various ways to complete a task to make sure I understood it and could do it alone next time. At the end of my summer as I said my byes to my coworkers, many said how it was a pleasure working with me and that they looked forward to seeing me again. I realized that there was never a predisposition to being a woman on a construction site. I also realized, if anything, it was an advantage. People noticed me more and helped me a little extra to make sure I would succeed in the job. My internship helped me realize that I should never feel uncomfortable to not fit in before I get into a situation and always come in with a positive outlook because others notice and it will make a team stronger and work better. It also taught me that I need to have self confidence in myself so that other people can trust me with different tasks on the job to broaden my horizons.
How were you involved with safety and/or quality during your internship, and how did that change your perspective on construction?
The company I worked for, Middlesex Corporation is very safety and quality oriented. The company’s continued goal is to be recognized in the ENR magazine for the Top 100 Contractors. We have steadily risen and fall into space number 247 last year. We also recently received a quality award from ENR for our last bridge project in Connecticut. We have gotten numerous safety as well as quality awards in the past. I participated in weekly safety meetings every Monday morning where we discussed different topics each week. Each of us gave examples and stories of our experiences. I enjoyed these meetings because everyone from Project Managers, Superintendents, interns, Office Engineers, and Laborers, etc attended. Seeing the different perspectives was an eye opening experience. Hearing real world experiences that people know and worked with have gone through on site taught me to appreciate all the steps the company takes in keeping its staff, as well as the public, safe at all times. I feel I am definitely more aware and alert when on site. All the company’s work is checked multiple times for quality purposed. I double and triple checked all my work to make sure it was at the utmost standard for the company and customer. Coworkers often reviewed my work embracing the strong need for quality assurance. I feel that this internship taught me not only is it important to do the job correctly and safely, but maintain a high standard or quality is very important as well.
After reviewing www.IBuildAmerica.com, tell us what I Build America means to you?
After exploring the I Build America website I was very inspired. I feel many people take what we have around us for granted. People may not think twice about how their toilet flushes, having running water, commuting to work, etc. I Build America enforces on the fact that construction creates everything we touch every day. Often people think that the engineers who design our structures are the ones to praise but I feel that the construction companies and laborers are just as important but often overlooked. Having a design and executing one are very different scenarios. Many people are good at one or the other but not often both. In this way construction companies are extremely important to the society we have built and know today. With designers and laborers working together, America has been built. One could not produce such good quality products without the other. To me I Build America means to always remember how much time and effort went into the things around you and have pride in the great structures and infrastructure the United States has built. I also think about how other countries are not as fortunate as us in regards to education of engineering and construction, lack or resources and tools, etc. I Build America recognizes that everyone does a tremendous amount of work and should be recognized with praise and pride in what we have accomplished. I Build America also unites not only engineers and laborers but the average people that do not think twice about the construction that went into the items they use every day. I Build America focuses on the importance of not only what we have done so far, but how important our future in construction truly is to our society.