School: Pennsylvania College of Technology
Major: Civil Engineering
Internship from May 16, 2016 — August 12, 2016
My name is Sydney Peagler, I’m a Civil Engineering student pursuing my bachelor’s degree at Pennsylvania College of Technology. After graduating high school I took some time away from my education to focus on working mainly because I had no idea what I wanted to do yet and didn’t want to waste time on something I wasn’t going to be happy to wake up every day to do. I have always had an interest in more physical work because I’m a type of person that likes to keep busy throughout the day, I wanted a career that was going to keep my mind working creatively and endlessly. I also enjoy math a lot, and that is because with math there is always a problem to solve, and during those two years of not being involved in school I realized more that my brain kind of worked exactly like that, always looking to find answers and solve issues with the best possible outcomes. For these reasons I chose Civil Engineering for my major and I absolutely enjoy it and know that it was the right path for me.
For the past two summers I have been fortunate enough to have been placed working in field situations through an internship with PennDOT. I chose to pursue this particular internship because I knew through PennDOT I would be working in a very hands on situation and be able to obtain extremely valuable field knowledge beneficial to my future. Reading books learning about construction and the do’s and don’ts of it is one thing, but it really helps more to get out there and see for yourself what’s going on to get a better visual.
Currently the job I’m overseeing this year is known for its goal of replacing old ramp exits with interchanges on State Route 70 of New Stanton, PA, but there is so much more to it than that! When you drive down the highway passing a construction site you don’t really see much other than mainly the major things like excavation or paving, and I used to be one of those people who thought that that was the only thing the contractor was really doing, but it’s so interesting to be behind the scenes and learning what all goes into “just replacing a road.” The hardest part about this job is that the prime contractor is on a tight schedule to finish the job one whole year earlier than said for it to be done, so everything is typically rush, rush, rush. In order to undergo this job in a timely matter an asphalt temporary bypass was built above the concrete that had been placed for one of the three roundabouts. Reason being is that as well as introducing 3 new interchanges to the exit ramps on Rt. 70, they are also relocating one of the bridge parts of the interstate to fit the area of the new roundabouts and reconstructing the surrounding area of the highway.
What results did you achieve on the internship, and how did you exceed the company's expectations for your role?
The State Route 70 project will continue on for approximately the next two years. The final outcome of the reconstruction of the New Stanton exits is to form 3 new interchanges, rebuild 2 bridges, and reform interstate 70. Due to the fact that it is a busy area and the current exits are too short for everyday traffic and tractor trailers are constantly backed up on them, the roundabouts will give vehicles more space and safety to enter in and out of New Stanton more conveniently while having stronger roadways to travel on. Results throughout construction this summer included the concrete issues that were previously mentioned and fixed, so that traffic was still able to be put on the temporary bypass in the predicted time frame in order to start tearing down the old bridge to replace it with the new one.
Internships are a great way for young students like myself to get out there and start learning! Even if you don’t know what to expect, how to handle certain operations, or what construction crews might even be doing and why, you’ll learn! It was a great opportunity for me to gain comfort and knowledge in my future career so now I won’t be going in blind sighted. This summer has taught me a lot about construction and redesign of roadways that I will take with me within future endeavors. I don’t know everything, but I will continue to learn to succeed.
Being a part of the field inspection was very beneficial to my future career because of its hands on experience. I was thankful to work with concrete in such a consistent manner because I was able to then determine when a truck load was tested if it was up to standards or if it could not be used. A lot of trust was put into me as an intern in monitoring the work of each construction crew including the sub-contractors. I was taught how to read plans and what each detail within the plans meant in that I would know what to look for while supervising and how operations should be getting completed. I was able to respond to questionable information by the knowledge I obtained and through communicating professionally between the contracting companies and my field supervisor.
As an intern you feel as if you’re not looked at as importantly as a full time employee because you don’t quite know what you’re doing at all times and why. However, with the guidance of my fellow field inspectors and my supervisor I was able to assist them at all times as they briefly explained what was needed from me. I always showed up on time, worked early days, late nights, and even weekends if they needed me, because the better we work as a team the greater the project outcome will be. Also, the more I helped, the more I learned, therefore it was beneficial for both them and me.
What did you learn in this internship that will affect your life in a positive way?
This summer I have got to experience a lot of paving with both concrete and asphalt. I learned all the details more in depth than I ever had before by participating in the buildup of a new roadways. I was able to determine the different classes of soil, as well as different types of stone such as 8’s, 2A and 57’s. I participated in the process of preparing the area that was being paved by proof rolling the sub grade, performing grade checks, monitoring placement of geotextile and acting as a field inspector to make sure sub base and permeable base were both placed and brought to the proper elevations according to plan. If the area or lane did not pass during the proof roll it was to be typically scarified to aerate, but some situations required undercuts, so it was important to make sure the contractor acted correctly. During the placement of concrete I assisted the field inspectors by keeping track of truck load tickets and performing the slump, air and temperature checks alongside the concrete technician. A slip-form paver was mainly used for pours, but hand pours were completed with a roller screed. The roller screed, however, created problems with concrete heights matching up between the fast lane and the shoulder lane and this was fixed by using a profiler to check which areas needed to be grinded. I was most fascinated that the majority of the paving machinery was controlled by GPS robotics. For example, when placing the 2A down, the grader was signaled by the GPS to bring it to the proper elevation, and it also controlled the direction of the concrete paver.
After traffic had been switched over to the completed temporary bypass, the construction of the bridge foundation began. Within this involved a lot of excavation and pile driving. During the pile driving I learned about the importance of counting blows to the pile.
Within all of this construction, little details not always noticed include laying of underdrain/cross sectional pipes, replacing inlets, setting fence lines and also barrier, all of which I got a chance to witness. Pipe is actually a very important aspect upon constructing a roadway because without somewhere for the drainage to go everything would be flooded. I really enjoyed being able to see the process of how to go about doing so in excavating the pipe area, placing the pipe, connecting pipe with metal bands, filling the excess area surrounding the pipe which lead into an inlet box with concrete, backfilling and then compacting. Also, you never knew what you were going to find when digging, there were a few times gas lines were run into and rock or concrete was found and had to be hammered out.
All of the above were roadway operations I have never seen or experienced close up. I was able to gain more construction based knowledge to prepare me for succeeding in my career upon graduating college.
How were you involved with safety and/or quality during your internship, and how did that change your perspective on construction?
Safety was an extreme factor within my summer internship. We held safety meetings weekly within the inspection staff that went over topics such as dehydration, poisonous plants, safety gear, etc.. It was very important to always be prepared in dress, and with the proper necessities such as glasses, a hard hat, and a vest. Heat became a major factor towards the middle of summer because the weather was typically in a very humid state and also in the 90 degree range. Water and sunscreen was something that you always wanted to make sure you were getting enough of.
With so many different operations going on in one day alone, machinery was constantly running everywhere, it was absolutely necessary to always be attentive. For the most part operators would see you if you were in their way, but it was never a guarantee, so paying attention at all times was a must. Another safety hazard experienced is the obvious, traffic. Traveling civilians on the highway care about one thing, getting where they need to go. To a driver construction is nothing but a nuisance and the majority of people are not paying attention and realizing the speed they’re going to how close construction workers are standing near them. This was one aspect I learned quickly within my very first summer internship with PennDOT last year and forever will make sure my speed is low when driving through construction zones because of it. People don’t realize how fast they’re actually moving until you’re standing on the side of the road next to cars driving.
Being attentive is not a one way street, both construction workers and anyone near a construction site whether traveling by car, bike or foot must remain cautious at all times.
After reviewing www.IBuildAmerica.com, tell us what I Build America means to you?
I Build America represents the foundations of living in my eyes. Without construction there would be no America, because the world would never become established due to no advancements made within land development across the country. Roadways, bridges, and railways allow us to get to the buildings, houses and other structures we need to be at to survive, such as employment, school or grocery stores. As well as proving these aspects for the everyday civilian, it’s also providing money, a roof and food over the construction worker’s heads for them and their families. Also that feeling of a job, whether a major or minor, done safely and well that can add convenience or success to someone else’s life creates a great sense of pride and accomplishment to those involved in completing it. Buildings are built in making it possible for people to obtain income to pay for the cost of living, transportation ways are built to allow people to get to and from such buildings, and houses are built to give people rest as they prepare themselves for their next day of school, work etc.. It’s a continuing cycle, which is why the growth of construction is so important. Construction also creates ways for water to flow safely not causing harm from excess rain and such throughout the land as well providing drinking or showering water. Construction allows us to expand our way of living, without it states in America would not be developed, people would not live in them, and cultures would not vary as much. Can you imagine the world if such did not exist? I couldn’t, and frankly there probably would barely be one.