Company: Turner Construction
School: Michigan State University
Major: Construction Management
Internship Dates: 5/20/2019 — 8/7/2019
Tell us about yourself and why you chose to do an internship in construction.
My name is Kelton Engemann and I am currently a senior in the dual degree construction management program at Michigan State University. I am 21 years old and I was born in Fairfield, Connecticut.
To start, my inspiration to go into the construction industry can be traced to my parents and our experience building a new home when I was younger. My father graduated from Michigan State University in 1985 with a degree in Landscape Architecture and a focus in Urban Planning. Throughout my life he worked as the Director of Facilities, Operations, and Construction for the Darien BOE in Darien Connecticut. My mother who moved to the United States from Ireland when she was 17 is a nurse practitioner. Despite her degree however, she had the knowledge and determination to be a General Contractor alongside my dad when they constructed our new home. As a kid, watching my parents succeed something so challenging, was a massive inspiration and played a large role in why I want to join this industry. In 2013, my father passed away and this further contributed to my pursuit of an education at Michigan State and a career in building. He taught me the pride that comes with working in the industry and inspired me to pursue building as a career. Since then, I have helped my mother build another house and worked with many different members in all levels of the construction industry. I also became student in the CM program here at Michigan State University and am striving to follow in my father’s footsteps.
Prior to my internship, I also have experience working in landscaping and planting. During the summer of 2017, I worked on a planting crew for Darien Lawn and Tree Contractors where I learned about working on a small crew and the challenges that come with it. I had an absolute blast working on this job but it was also a humbling experience as it showed me the hard work that goes into construction which people often take for granted.
I have just begun my senior year at Michigan State and am currently enrolled in the Dual Degree Program. This program allows me to take graduate level courses in place of some undergraduate courses so that I can graduate in Fall 2020 with a both bachelor's and master’s degrees in construction management. Although this program is far more challenging than anything I have done before, I believe that it will help me develop the skills necessary to be a leader in the industry and it will give me the opportunity to explore my specific interests in CM before taking on a full-time job. Overall, I am extremely proud to be attending my dad’s alma mater and I am excited for the new challenges that I will face as I transition into the working world.
What are some of your proudest achievements and how did you exceed the company’s expectations for your role?
One of my proudest achievements that exceeded my company’s expectations was my ability to balance the work I was assigned in the site office with my competition tasks as they arose in the field. Specifically, I excelled in my ability to communicate issues in the field back to the superintendent as well as my skills in solving/controlling problems as they arose onsite. One example of this was when the sub-pump in the boiler room of the school got clogged and I discovered 6 inches of water in the room. That day, I was one of two Turner representatives on site and I had to think quickly to contain the situation and solve the problem.
My first action was to get the laborer and immediately begin pumping the water out of the basement and into a controlled area on site. Secondly, I contacted the site superintendent (who was not at work) and explained the situation, informing him that we were pumping out the water and asking what steps he would like me to take next. Ultimately, I was able to diagnose the cause of the pump failure and worked with the superintendent the following Monday to prevent the issue from happening again. This was a very proud moment for me because it highlighted my ability to perform in a difficult, unexpected situation. My supervisors were impressed with the way I contained the situation and prevented any damages to the project.
One other achievement that I am proud of was my ability to maintain the log of materials in procurement. At the beginning of the summer, the Project Engineer and I developed a tracking matrix for some materials that would be needed on site during the summer. It was my job to keep track of these materials and where they were in the procurement process. The goal was to ensure all materials were delivered by the (ROJ required on job date) and that any issues in the procurement process were tackled as soon as they were discovered. I am particularly proud of this because it was a particularly challenging task for me to complete. I was required to speak with different subcontractors to get updates on the materials, and I had to learn how to address issues that caused delays. An example of this was with the “Floor Sockets for Removable Rails” that you can see in the image that I have attached to my submission. The sub who was manufacturing this material was waiting on an RFI from the architect and it was up to me to work with the Super, and Project Engineer to acquire this RFI. This was a new process to me, and I felt very accomplished for successfully tracking the materials through to their completion.
On a broader note, I am proud of my ability to understand and use what I have been taught in my courses at Michigan State University. During the summer of 2019, I feel that I was able to actually apply what I have been learning in school for the first time and let me tell you… it felt great. I could look at specs and understand the language. I could read through a requisition and comprehend the quantities and the values. Most importantly, I could go on site and know how the pieces fit together. I think that I speak on behalf of a lot of students in that it is sometimes challenging to see the real-world application of what we are learning, but with this internship it all really clicked for me. I am proud of myself not only because I applied what I learned in school, but also because I now know how to approach my classes with a different mindset, and I have the ability to use my internship experience to enhance my understanding in the classroom.
How were you involved with safety during your internship, and how did it change your perspective of construction?
Through my time with Turner, I have been involved in safety operations on all different scales. In its simplest form, safety is a large portion of the means by which any project is executed. The first notable experience that I have with safety was enforcing the PPE policies that Turner practices. Examples include – PPE at all times, caps on all exposed rebar, fall protection when working on lifts, ladder inspections and tags daily, etc. During the early days of my internship experience in summer 2018, it was one of my few responsibilities, but it often became repetitive and difficult to get subs to comply with many of the rules. As a young intern with such little experience, it was sometimes difficult for me to emphasize Turner policy to older tradesmen. Over time however, I learned to generate conversation with the workers and explain to them the importance of the policies and why they exist. This made the tradesmen more willing to comply and helped me earn a higher level of respect with the workers on the project.
One notable experience that relates to the topic of PPE and basic safety procedures was the high level of lacerations that occurred in the Turner CT business unit in the summer of 2019. Despite excellent safety compliance, workers were suffering more lacerations than normal from work with tools such as band saws. It was discovered that workers were often using the wrong size band saw for the wrong type of work, as this was the result of most of the injuries. In response to this, the safety manager of our project and business had us discuss with foreman the importance of using the correct band saws, emphasizing the need for availability of different sized wireless tools. Although there was some backlash, many contractors were more conscious of tools that they provided to their workers and throughout the summer there was a decline in lacerations.
My biggest take away from my experiences is that safety is a two-way street and that it relies on one simple yet important relationship between Turner and our subs… Trust. Everyone on the project wants to get their work done right and done on time, but often with time there just isn’t enough. People feel the need to cut corners and sometimes, they don’t even know that they are. From my internship I learned that safety policies are in place to protect the safety of the workers. Yes, they are thorough. Yes, they can be tedious, but they also help everyone make it home at the end of the day.
How did you utilize technology or innovative practices at your internship?
Throughout my two years at Turner I have had the opportunity to learn about and experience many different types of new technology and I have seen how they are utilized in the building industry. This includes but is not limited to…
Drones use – Local drone pilot coordinated with project team to take aerial photos of the site during different phases of the project. Doing so allowed us to view the project in a way that we never could before and gave us images and videos that we were able to use for marketing and for describing some of the different features of the project.
Navisworks and animation for planning – Through my courses at MSU I learned about the utility of Autodesk Navisworks and I was able to see it in action during my time with turner this summer. The program was mostly used for clash detection with the MEP trades and it was often used when discussing the installation of specific items. An example of this was when we used the program to find the correct placement of the air handling unit that was to be placed on the roof. This unit was of a unique shape and size and so we had to make sure it would not clash with the parapet wall that would be close to its location. Another example was when the design team created an animation of the preassembled bridge lift. The animation gave a plan of where the bridge would swing and allowed all project members to visualize the pick before it happened, aiding in the planning of the event.
Virtual reality – VR was used on this project to show different parties on the job an accurate representation of the finished building. For example, the fire marshal was able to look at the building and determine areas where smoke detectors should be located while also noticing things that may/may not meet code.
360 camera used for quality control – One of my first tasks as an intern was to document photos of all rooms before drywall began. To do this I used a camera that could take a 360 picture of a room, showing the MEP work that had been completed before in wall inspections. This documentation served as a sort of insurance to show that the work inside the walls had been completed according to the contract before drywall was put up.
Pipe exploration equipment (Pipe Crawler) – One unique tool that I got to interact with was a pipe crawler. An issue that occurred onsite involved an unmarked pipe that was discovered while excavating for footings. The pipe was an unknown length, so a pipe crawler was needed to diagnose the situation. This “robot” crawled down the pipe, sending a live feed back from a camera to the monitor that we had on the surface. This allowed us to determine that the pipe was around 30’ in length and did not take any turns. We then filled the pipe with cement to ensure the soils were suitable to build on and continued with work on the footings.
Looking forward in my construction career, I think that technology has a place for those who are willing to utilize it. All the examples that I have given above are very different in the way they work, but if you think about it, they all serve one common goal: To ensure that the job was completed with the highest level of effort and accuracy. This goal is one that should lie at the heart of every building company and it is a goal that I have for myself as I move forward with my career. Providing our clients with a finished product that is tailored to their specifications is the main purpose of any construction manager, and the technology that I discuss above enhances our ability to do so.
Overall, I learned that Turner’s practices are unique, specifically their attention to detail and their ability to perform the highest quality work. They were always willing to acquire and utilize equipment/tools, that allowed both our company and the subs to complete their work to the highest standards and they gave me the opportunity to learn about these new tools and their potential in the industry.
What did you learn during your internship that has positively affected your life?
This internship was more than I ever could have asked for. Throughout the past two summers on the project, I have gained exposure to more than I ever thought existed in the building industry. New technology, new challenges, new people, all from which I learned about the science of building as well as the passion that goes into it. I need to give a lot of credit to the team that I was with on the Stratford High School Project. Each member of the team was always open to answering my questions and they were always pushing me to test my abilities on the job.
Of everything that I learned this summer, I think that the most valuable lesson was that sometimes (even when your pushing schedule) it is important to slow down and take a good long look around the job-site. This was something that I learned from my PM this past summer and it is something that I will try to do on every job I am part of in the future. Often times, I would find myself running around chasing down subs, and I would sometimes forget about the big picture. My PM taught me to stop for a while and just look at all the work that was going on. Look at each of the subs, think about what they’re doing, and challenge yourself to improve on the process or even the work itself. By slowing down and taking the time to do this, I would often find myself noticing more details as I walked around site and learning to pick out small ways to improve the work. Whether its safety, quality, schedule, or anything else, there is always room for improvement. You just need to take a moment to see it.
Although I am still very young in the building industry, this internship has given me the confidence to take on new tasks and has strengthened my dive to succeed. In the future I want to take what I have learned not only to improve the success of my own projects but to benefit the industry as a whole. As new minds enter the world of construction, it is important that they are challenged to be the best that they can. My internship did this for me, and I think that it has really shaped the builder who I now aspire to be.
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