Author Archives: Sam

Construction Site Inspector

Hi all!

 

Over the last semester, I have been away from Lehigh on a co-op with Remington & Vernick Engineers. My rotation ended a few weeks ago and I cannot even begin to write how much I have learned from this experience. I have grown in technical aspects but I also gained valuable insight in areas I never considered prior to this co-op. For my next few blog posts, I will be talking about projects I have worked on. Hopefully, for all the prospective civil engineering majors out there, you can have an inside look on what a civil engineering company actually does from an intern’s perspective.

One of the best parts of my experience was that my company gave me opportunities to explore many areas of the industry. You see, as a civil engineer, there are many smaller positions and concentrations I can focus on. A little over a month in my co-op, my department head asked me to help the inspections department for a week.

Inspecting job on a bridge crossing the Delaware River

Inspecting job on a bridge crossing the Delaware River

Construction inspectors are vital in any engineering project. Inspectors are the bridge between the engineers, those who design the project, and the construction contractors, those who actually construct the project. The construction contractors are given plans from the design engineers, which the contractors will construct. The inspector must ensure that the contractors are conducting the construction in accordance with the plans created by the engineers. The job is actually more difficult than it sounds because plans created by the engineers are not always constructible. Sometimes the terrain and geography of the location makes a design, perfect on paper, impossible to construct. The inspector must direct the contractors when the project must differ from the designs.

My brief experience as a construction inspector was particularly difficult for me because for the first time, I am supposed to be watching and supervising contractors who are much more experienced than I am. To describe my nervousness, I repeated thought to myself was that I am supposed to be telling people, who knew my job better than myself, what to do. Like many problems I faced in my co-op rotation, there was no clear textbook answer on how to deal with this situation. In addition, I cannot pull the “I-am-an-intern” card because I need to have the contractors respect my role as the inspector (if they realized that I’m actually just a student intern, they probably would ignore anything I tell them)!

At the end, I resorted to being incredibly respectful to the contractors while keeping a close eye on the specifications and drawing plans I was given. It was definitely an experience outside of my comfort zone, but I learned a lot!

Had to make sure that concrete was at the right level.

Had to make sure that concrete was at the right level.

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Wicked

Wicked

Hi everyone!

Hope you’re all enjoying these few beautiful days. I always love it after a thunderstorm, all the humidity goes away. I’m currently writing this piece in the little patio between the library and STEPS building, absolutely amazing today.

As I’ve written in an earlier post, I’m involved with the Engineering Co-Op Program. The Co-Op program is a internship based program; students have the opportunity to work with a company in their junior fall semester and the summer between their junior and senior year. However, in order to graduate in time, students are required to take the fall classes they would miss during the summer between their sophomore and junior year.

WickedClasses are definitely difficult. This is made harder for me especially because many of my housemates and friends are on campus doing research, which means that they are done at 5pm. While I’m trying hard to study for my soil mechanics exam, they are busy distracting me with Mario Karts. Luckily, the Engineering Co-Op Program understand the troubles of a summer student and they offer many other activities and trips we can be involved with. In May, we were offered a trip to Hershey Park (which unfortunately I could not attend because of a lab session I needed to participate in). Last week, twenty-some of us traveled to New York City to watch the Broadway show, Wicked.

No spoilers here. Wicked is essentially a side story to the Wizard of Oz. In the Wizard of Oz, the main character, Dorothy Gale, is sent to the Land of Oz in a tornado. In her efforts to return home via the wizard, Dorothy is seen to be tormented by the Wicked Witch of the West. In Wicked, the twist is that the “Wicked” Witch of the West is actually a good and passionate woman who is misunderstood by society. The story in the Wizard of Oz is told from the perspective of society, who sees the witch as murderous, crafty, and wicked. In Wicked, the witch, Elphaba, was shown to born to a normal set of parents, however, the witch was born anything BUT normal. As a green child, Elphaba was shunned by peers, adults, and eventually society.

I won’t spoil it for you in case you’ve never actually seen the show (or read the plot). Absolutely amazing, I cannot wait for my next Broadway trip!

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Summer Sessions

Hi everyone,

Hope everyone’s enjoying their Fourth of July weekend; my brother is home from Ohio and we had an excellent barbeque last night. The entire family’s going camping this next week, unfortunately I’ll be returning to Lehigh for classes.

I’m taking classes this summer because I’m part of the Engineering Co-op Program; in this program, students are required to take their junior fall semester classes the summer before their junior year, this way they are able to complete their first round of co-op rotation during the fall. Co-op students return to Lehigh for their junior spring semester, but they go back for their second and last round of rotation the summer before their senior year. The advantage of a co-op experience rather than a normal internship is that fact that you have at least 16 weeks of work experience during your first rotation (comparing to an average internship’s of 12 weeks). Since the company expects your return, you probably will have a better chance of your company rehiring you.

Summer classes are definitely not a joke. True, I’m only taking 14 credits instead of the normal 18 during the semesters, but the lack of time really makes the classes more difficult. There are only 12 weeks of summer classes (separated into two sessions of 6 weeks each) compared with a normal semester’s 15 weeks. The accelerated pace makes attending class even more important than during the semester. One three-hour lecture is probably worth an entire week’s worth of material. My second summer session’s schedule goes from 12pm – 5pm with a half hour break in break.

The advantage of these summer classes are definitely the smaller class sizes. My Soils Mechanics class is made up of 7 students, six of those in my class. It is clearly much easier to know your classmates since you will be seeing them every day. Probably just as important, it is much easier to get to know the professor with such a small class! As much as I’m complaining about the accelerated pace and long class time, the summer session does seem much easier comparing to the actual semester. This is probably because most clubs and organizations do not meet during the summer.

With that being said, there are definitely more than just studying in the summer. If willing, students are able to take hold of the few on-campus jobs. Some students have a lighter schedule than me, so many students are also involved with research with professors. During the actual semester, the heavy course load makes intensive research incredibly difficult. In the summer, it is definitely possible to get involved with research.

During the summer, co-op students are invited by Career Services to participate in various activities. A few weeks ago, many of us were offered to travel to Hershey Park (free of charge!). This Friday, Career Services is hosting 20 students to go to New York City to see the Broadway show, Wicked. I’ve posted previously about seeing Phantom of the Opera and Lion King with Lehigh, I’m incredibly excited to see Wicked.

The summer semesters are definitely busy with classes but there are still a lot going on around campus. I’ll be sure to write more soon!


Memes for the Final

Hi everyone!

I’ve just finished studying for my Introduction to Environmental Engineering class. Lehigh is starting its finals week tomorrow. My first exam is Introduction to Environmental Engineering, then Computer Science and Linear Algebra are on the days immediately afterwards. I’m just taking a little study break by posting some memes then I’ll get right into coding, I promise!

In Game of Thrones, the seven kingdoms have been warned to prepare winter, and they've been warned for multiple seasons ... just like we've been told to prepare for final for multiple weeks...

In Game of Thrones, the seven kingdoms have been warned to prepare winter, and they’ve been warned for multiple seasons … just like we’ve been told to prepare for final for multiple weeks…

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Fortunately, most of my classes aren’t that difficult yet. But I suspect that Structural Analysis is going to be taught by Professor Gandalf.

FINALS-MEME-10I’m trying!!!!

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Awh – but seriously, even though you’re studying for finals, make sure you’re getting enough sleep. I know that there are a lot of material to cover … quit procrastinating just because there’s no class. Fun can come after the exams, you’ve got all summer!

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Guilty

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Can’t believe my first final is in three days!! GAH!

EngineeringInception

I really hope this isn’t me!

To all the students, hang in there. This is the last straw. You’ve been working hard all semester and this is where it counts! Be strong for that last bit and it’ll all be over. Unless you’re me and have classes over the summer!

Good luck.


Bridges to Prosperity

Hi everyone!

Finals are approaching … you can feel it in the atmosphere. It’s still pretty quiet in terms of the library; but anyone can tell that eerie ambiance is merely the quiet before the storm. In a few days, people are going to be crowding the library and our schedules will once again be hectic. I’ve already filled up my schedule of when I want to study what topics. Lucky enough, I’ve only got 4 final exams and one presentation. Comparing to many other people, I’ve got the good life!

B2P logoI want to write about a club that is very meaningful to me. Bridges to Prosperity is an organization where students literally build a bridge for developing communities. I’ve said this several times before, I am very passionate about developing undeveloped regions. Organizations such as Engineers Without Borders are wonderful, but in the Lehigh University chapter, they focus mainly on water resources. Personally, I am more interested in structures rather than water resources. This is why Bridges to Prosperity is truly meaningful to me.download

Why is Bridges to Prosperity important? Imagine that you have two rural villages. One

village has the only medical facility and education system. The other village has extended families from the first village. Also, this second village has the only road that connects to the outside. The problem is that a river or some sort of natural barrier divides the two villages. During the wet season, it can even become very deadly to cross this river. You can see how this can easily before a problem.

Throughout the year, our executive board and the members have been in contact with Bridges to Prosperity. We identified a community in need of a bridge, and we have been tasked to design a bridge. Our student chapter is responsible for creating a design for the bridge, raising the money to pay for supplies and labor for the bridge, and we are also responsible for the construction schedule. Not only is this an engineering design project, it also includes construction management aspects.

This is a picture of our surveying team's work over the winter break

This is a picture of our surveying team’s work over the winter break

In our university chapter of Bridges to Prosperity, we are tasked with designing a bridge in Vallecito, Panama. Since this is our first bridge that we have a small membership, the bridge will be smaller. The team traveling will be gone for about 2.5 weeks. Knowledge for the local language (Spanish) will be very important because the construction team will be working hand-in-hand with residents

Site where the bridge will be constructed over

Site where the bridge will be constructed over

in the community.

Unfortunately, I would not be able to attend this trip because I will be busy with summer classes. I have been accepted into a Co-op so in order to graduate in time, I will be a full time student over the summer and a full-time student in the fall semester. However, I am looking forward to be more involved with the club!

 

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Egg Drop Friday

Hi everyone!

Hope that everyone is enjoying their weekend! It’s a beautiful day here at Lehigh University; a lot of people are hoping to enjoy the weather while they still can – before finals! Like many of the others, this is one of the few quiet weekends in my schedule (quiet as in I’m not encumbered by tests!). It’s scary to think that right after final exams, I’ll be finished with my sophomore year of college. Of course, I wouldn’t be on campus during the fall semester; all the reason to try to enjoy this weekend while I can!

I just wanted to write about the Egg Drop competition we had yesterday afternoon. This competition is one of the many random events that clubs hold for the public. Other events that Lehigh hold are Thursday night Trivia, various activities held at Lamberton Hall (activities are different every week: line-dancing, bingo, etc), and other late-night programs. Last night, we had Dance Fest and last weekend, we held the Hackathon. As a tour guide, a lot of parents ask me if the Greek life was dominating; my answer is always that although there is a large Greek life presence, it’s not the only thing you can do.

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First drop!

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Royce (left) is on my team and Kyle (right) probably has the coolest design. Kyle’s design relied on the rubber band to lessen the acceleration of when the design hit the ground.

So – back to the Egg Drop competition. Like most Lehigh competitions, there’s an award for those who are placed in first and second. The winning team will receive $250 in rewards while the second place winners will receive $100. For everyone else… well, they all had a great time. I really wish I took a picture of the creation phase, but unfortunately, I didn’t think to write about this until half way through!

The criteria for winning is that (1) the egg must stay intact (duh!) for the three drops and (2) the barrier around the egg must be the cheapest. Given $14 imaginary dollars as allowance, we were allowed to buy materials with those money. Plastic bags, strings, rubber bands, marshmallow, cotton, tape, newspaper, and a few other items were all on the menu. Given the high engineering population at Lehigh University, I wasn’t surprised to see some very creative designs.

Our team was able to advance through the two drops with satisfying results. Unfortunately, on the last drop of around 20 feet, the egg sadly cracked. The winning team’s design was very air resistant so naturally they were able to decrease the velocity and acceleration from when the egg hits the ground. It’s really a simple physics equation ==> F = ma. Decrease the acceleration of when the egg hits the ground and you will decrease the force. Nonetheless, I had a great time and I’m looking forward to enjoying this weekend.

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Second drop!


Steel Bridge Competition

Hello everyone!

It’s been a long time since my last blog. I apologize, I have been working on a few videos for the department and haven’t had the chance to write anything lately. It was also the middle of exams so I was not able to spare any time for this blog! However, I’m back now and I hope to post more on a regular basis.

I’m sure you’ve read posts from Katie about the Steel Bridge club at Lehigh University. I was fortunate enough to be involved with the club and I was able to attend the regional Steel Bridge competition (if you want to learn more about the competition, I’ve provided a link here: http://www.aisc.org/content.aspx?id=780). This year, the competition was held at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. We actually just got back from the competition Sunday afternoon so everything is still pretty fresh in my mind. It was actually a perfect weekend and almost everything turned out right.Bridge in pieces

The Naval Academy

It’s always fun to visit another college. Even as a prospective university student, I’ve always loved going onto another campus and seeing the culture. A little bit off-topic, but doesn’t the idea that each university has its own culture, people, and buildings make you feel so small? Anyways, even though I consider myself to be motivated, I felt absolutely lazy when I was at the academy. My first impression: everyone was running. It didn’t take long for me to realize the discipline and pressure these kids go through. While a long day at Lehigh meant an 8 hour study session in the library, I can only assume how these cadets go through so much more.

The campus was beautiful. I’m not sure what the undergraduate (are they even called undergraduates?) population is, but Lehigh’s campus is absolutely dwarfed by the size of the academy. Even the biggest buildings at Lehigh seem to be moderately sized at the academy. I honestly wish I had taken more pictures.

2014-04-12 14.34.53The Bridge (before competition)

Going back to the topic of the bridge, I’m sure Katie has written a lot on the topic, but I’ll recap briefly. The Steel Bridge competition is an engineering project where different universities design and construct their own bridges and to ultimately test them against each other. These bridges measure 20 ft in length and around 30 feet in width, which is around 1/10 of an actual bridge. We started from scratch, just a pile of steel plates and steel rods. For the few months leading up to the competition, we designed our bridge using a 3D software. We were up in the lab ATLSS (Advanced Technology for Large Structure Systems) using plasma cutters and welders to construct each individual members of the bridge. By the time we were ready to go off to the competition, we have a whole bunch of bridge members that we can bolt up to create an actual bridge.

The Competition

There are three parts to the competition: (1) build speed, (2) lateral load, and (3) vertical load. These tests are pretty self explanatory. We are to assemble the bridge (remember, we’ve already had the individual members, now we just need to bolt them up) as quickly as possible. Next, we put a 50 lb lateral load on the bridge. Lastly, we see how much weight we can apply vertically onto the bridge.

Unfortunately, since our team was very inexperienced (most of the team is comprised of underclassmen), we did not perform as 2014-04-13 08.28.48well as many of the other teams. Our build speed was 25:02 (maximum time was 30 min) and we failed the lateral load test. Since we failed the lateral load, we were unable to continue to vertical loading.

Despite our low rankings, it was a wonderful experience. Our team learned many vital lessons on how to improve our bridge. The most important of which is to allow time for the bridge. Instead of cramming the entire construction into a matter of weeks, we must begin our bridge earlier. One of our biggest failures this year was that we started too late. We didn’t even begin building our bridge until just a month ago. By giving our project more team, we can improve our results greatly.

 


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