School: University of Wisconsin- Platteville
Major: Civil Engineering
Company: J.F. Brennan
Internship from May 23, 2016 — August 19, 2016
I am a civil engineering undergraduate student and working towards my emphases in Geotech and Environmental. My previous work experience consisted of a co-op and internship in the environmental department of a paper mill. There I worked in a waste water lab and did a large amount of technical writing and reporting for air quality. Although I loved my job I decided to breach out and test out a different side of engineering in more field based work. This decision was made in order to make myself a very well balanced and experienced engineer when I graduate. Due to my love for and experience in the waste water department, the marine construction industry seemed very fitting. This led me to an internship with J.F. Brennan.
What results did you achieve on the internship, and how did you exceed the company's expectations for your role?
This summer I was given the opportunity to work as a Project Engineering Intern for J.F. Brennan. During my internship I worked on a dockwall repair. The existing wall failed over the winter. The project was to install king piles, a new waler, and tieback on the river side of the failed wall and a backup wall on the land side. This was my first experience in the construction industry and it did not disappoint. I was able to watch and learn how to run a diesel pile driving hammer and a vibratory pile driving hammer. Some of the crew members taught me how to use a cutting torch and how to weld.
My given responsibilities were to track and record daily operations in a daily report. My previous experience in writing made this task much easier and allowed me to be onsite more and at the computer less. While onsite I decided to jump into the work rather than watch and record. In essence I became another crew member. I aided in tie rod installation, pile driving, cutting, and much more. Although I did not know how to weld or do some other things I was able to complete a lot of other tasks that although easy, were still time consuming. For example, I marked the H-piles in one foot increments for driving purposes. Any of the crew members could have done it but with me doing they were freed up for an extra hand.
At the end of the project I spent time in the office for Brennan. There I tested my hand at doing material takeoffs. I was given drawings to just look over and become familiar with but in order to challenge myself I performed takeoffs on them.
What did you learn in this internship that will affect your life in a positive way?
During my internship I learned how to communicate with all parties of a project. Onsite there were two engineers, a project manager, a superintendent, and the crew members. It was important to communicate to each person in the way that they would understand. It was also important to listen to each person. It was not just the engineer or project manager with the most knowledge. The superintendent and many of the crew members had very valuable experience and insight that really helped move the project along and get past any obstacles.
I believe that this can be applied anywhere. Always be open to listening. You never know who has what experiences. There are so many things I have yet to experience and it would be wise to listen to those who have gone before me.
How were you involved with safety and/or quality during your internship, and how did that change your perspective on construction?
The crew members were very safety conscious which surprised me. I expected to have to pull teeth in order to have safety rules followed. this was not the case. I learned that they understand how and to work safely. Having discussions with the crew on topics that are work site applicable helped spur on further discussion of how safety can be improved. The idea was to talk about accidents or incidents before they happen.
After reviewing www.IBuildAmerica.com, tell us what I Build America means to you?
This summer I experienced and saw the hard work that the crew members put in everyday. In talking with them it seemed to me that they sacrificed time with their families while on the road in order to provide and give them a better life, and make a better America for them to live in.
Each crew member I met this summer had some sort of family. I listened to guys call their family during lunch or on break. All of them wanted to provide for their families financially and were willing to be apart from them in order to do it.
Along with the financial side, the crew members seemed to take a lot of pride in their work. They realized that the structures they make could be utilized by their children and family. They all wanted to make something that they could proudly say they helped build.
The sacrifices made by the construction workers helps not only their direct families but all of us as a whole. We all use and can easily take for granted the infrastructure around us and how it comes to be.