This summer for my STEP Signature Project, I interned with the City of Columbus Department of Public Service. I worked in land surveying where I helped the city complete various capital improvement projects including street resurfacing, the installation of sidewalks, and the construction of Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant curb ramps.
Working for the City of Columbus gave me a deeper understanding of the complexity of civil engineering projects. Each individual project has its own challenges and difficulties; cost overruns, schedule delays, and plan changes are issues that need to be dealt with quickly and effectively. Projects also interfere with the daily lives of citizens. Repaving a street and adding curb ramps takes time, so the plan must reflect how vehicle and pedestrian traffic will be affected. This internship changed my assumptions about the amount of forward-thinking a civil engineer needs to do. Sometimes quick changes need to be implemented, and civil engineers must be prepared for that.
The project that impacted me the most was a capital improvement project that repaved a street and added sidewalks to a community that did not have them before. Pedestrians no longer had to walk on the gravel shoulder of a very busy street, which greatly increased the safety of the pedestrians and the drivers. The consultants, the city, and the contractors worked hard on the project to get it done well and on time. While some homeowners were glad that their street was getting a sidewalk, it presented issues for other homeowners as the new sidewalks caused water to pond in their front yards and driveways.
The project could not be left in this state for long as it inconvenienced homeowners and could cause damage to property in the future. This problem only arose after installation had begun. Changes had to be made to the installation so that the homeowners that lived along the project did not have water in their yards, but these changes could not go over budget or delay the project’s completion date. The consultants, the city, the contractors, and the homeowners had to work together to fix the issue. The homeowners had to document where the water was sitting so that the proper parties were notified. Once they were notified, the problem could be addressed, and a fix created.
Through this internship, I also got to learn a lot more about surveying, civil engineering, and construction from my superiors. They told me about how Ohio was a “test” state for surveying the American West. I got to experience first-hand how projects work in a public setting, and the processes that need to happen for a construction project to be successful. All of these experiences, as well as many more like them throughout my summer, gave me a much clearer understanding of what any career in my field would be like. The knowledge that I gained in this internship will not only help me to choose my career path in the future, but also make me a better civil engineer as a whole.
This experience changed my life significantly because this is the field I want to go into, and this was my first real-world experience with it. Through this project, I have realized that I want to work on large projects that impact peoples’ lives. To do this, I need to continue to develop the skills that I picked up from this internship. I need to have the proper foresight and planning to take on these large projects while still being prepared for problems. These are skills that are hard to teach in the classroom, and I am very grateful that I had the opportunity to develop them this summer.