Wednesday, September 2, 2020

COVID-19 presents unique challenges for summer intern

By Taylor Lenderman

This summer I was fortunate enough to land an internship at the Bellingham project engineering office as a transportation engineering intern. I am starting my senior year at Gonzaga University and working towards my bachelor's degree in civil engineering. I was thankful to be in my hometown, Bellingham, and spend summer in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.
Taylor Lenderman, an engineering intern in our Bellingham office,
learns to form a concrete cylinder.

My experience as an intern was likely unique compared to the typical intern experience. COVID-19 disrupted the work environment quite significantly. As employees were required to telework from home, being a new face presented some challenges. I was worried that it would be difficult to get help and support from staff, and that learning opportunities would be limited. Luckily, everybody I had the chance to work with was more than willing to help me, and I could not be more thankful! I was able to develop relationships with employees whether I was in the field or teleworking from home. Even though I may not have met everyone in person, I still had the ability to meet virtually and made a connection with just about every employee in our office.
Intern Taylor Lenderman surveys a creek bed near SR 548 in Whatcom County.

So what did I do?

The internship offered several opportunities to get my feet wet. I assisted an inspector on two construction projects, learned how to test materials, observed the work of survey crews, and visited some cool projects outside of the Mt. Baker region.

One of the first projects I helped inspect was at the Bow Hill weigh station. I saw how asphalt is milled and replaced with fresh new asphalt, how concrete panels are poured, and learn the basics of inspection. This project was a learning opportunity for myself and several young engineers in our office. Struggling and learning together as a team throughout this project prepared ourselves for a much bigger fish passage project that was scheduled at the end of July.
Taylor Lenderman stretches his arms wide to show the size of a new 12-foot culvert.

One of the most memorable experiences I had was shadowing an inspector on a salmon fish passage project at Hoag's Creek on SR 11. This project involved replacing an old concrete culvert with a much bigger culvert, allowing salmon to spawn upstream. During the road closure that lasted roughly two weeks, I saw some major progress as contractor Tiger Construction worked around the clock to excavate the old culvert and replace it with the new one. It was amazing how much was accomplished during those two weeks! It was fascinating to watch how the jobsite completely changed from the beginning of the project to end. I was impressed with how much progress was made with the large equipment, countless loads of material delivered from dump trucks, and the construction crew which brought a tremendous amount of effort to the job each day. I must tip my inspector's hard hat to the contractor for all the hard work they accomplished!
Taylor Lenderman is flanked by engineers Vivianne Tabuena (left)
and Laura Brown at the Bow Hill weigh station.

Looking back, I gained some valuable experience in the field and developed connections throughout the agency. As an intern and having no prior training, it was difficult to do tasks on my own because I often had to rely on other employees for their guidance. I tried to provide an outside perspective, ask good questions, and soak in every learning opportunity like a sponge. Luckily, I was a part of a welcoming and supportive team that was always more than willing to help me when needed. I would like to thank the entire Bellingham office for letting me tag along as an inspector to jobsites, answering every question I had, and most importantly, welcoming me and making me feel like a part of their team. I have learned so much over these past few months that I can apply and expand on as I progress in my final year of school and engineering career. Thank you for an awesome summer!

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Success mostly depends on attitude, keep up your positive attitudes and come back to WSDOT, it is great place to work for. You reminded me with myself over 30 years ago, and am still here. Last week I had a phone conversation with the very same gentleman who recruited me in early 1990. Good luck

Ziyad Zaitoun

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