Fischmann Internship at The Pidcock Company - Summer 2006

Claudia Fischmann.JPGClaudia Fischmann

Hometown: Allentown, PA
Year: senior
Major: civil engineering
This summer I worked as an intern at The Pidcock Company (TPC) in ALlentown, PA, a civil engineering firm that does architectural work, surveying, civil engineering, and land planning. I worked in both the environmental and the traffic branches of the company. Coming from a focus in structural engineering, both branches were completely different than anything I have done in college so far.
Each day I divided my time between the environmental and the traffic divisions of TPC. Mr. Scott Pidcock, the director of The Pidcock Company, is the Township Engineer for three townships in Lehigh County where they are based. Any civil engineering projects to be done in those three townships must come to TPC for approval. My part in that approval process was to take the material submittals from the contractors and check them against the township ordinances. Every piece of equipment or material used in a job that related to environmental or traffic, whether it was a road reconstruction or a waterline extension, came to me for inspection. I made sure that the contractor submitted everything in accordance with the township specifications and, in most cases, sent some of the material submittals back to be resubmitted correctly. It is amazing how many times a contractor will have to resubmit to make sure all of the materials and parts are approved by the township.
When a project is in the approval stage, TPC looks over the plans and makes comments about what needs to be fixed. The company submitting the plans then has to correct them and send them back to be reviewed again. This process usually takes a few repetitions. My job in this process was to look at the plans and check to see if the revisions have been done, and then write another set of comments to be sent to the firm that submitted the plans. I usually looked over the plans twice, once for environmental and once for traffic. I got to look over the plans for a new water ride for Dorney Park and Wildwater Kingdom, a theme park in the area.
In addition to working for the townships in the area, The Pidcock Company also does a lot of design work. During my internship, there were always big deadlines for submissions of plans for big projects like the Lehigh Valley Hospital Expansion and the new Lehigh Valley Minor League Baseball Stadium.
Working for the traffic division, I analyzed traffic count data and helped prepare traffic studies about the impact of the new construction on the proposed and existing roadways. There are programs used to model intersections and the traffic flow through them that can predict how the construction will affect the traffic. I also did some design work for the traffic division. I designed two detours while I was there and am looking forward to seeing them in place when construction starts. There is a whole book on detours and the signing involved.
Another design project I worked on was designing the setup of an intersection. Some of the things I had to decide on were the signing, what traffic signals to use and where to place them, the placement of the junction boxes and the wiring, and the placement of preemption loops. An intersection with traffic lights is a lot more complicated than I originally thought. Not only is there a lot of planning that goes into the construction of the intersection, but figuring out the timing schemes for the traffic lights is also very complicated. Luckily, there is a very cool computer program that is used for figuring out the timing and uses a grading system of A through F to show how well your intersection runs.
I also worked on the design side for the environmental division. Some of the projects that the environmental division is in charge of is all of the waterline and sanitary sewer line construction and extensions and the building and maintaining of water storage tanks.
While I was there, I added onto my previously meager AUTOCAD skills and helped with some of the design work for a few of the ongoing projects. I was in charge of designing the main waterline for the new stadium in both plan and profile views. That meant figuring out where in the complicated mess of electrical, gas, sanitary, and storm sewer lines the waterline should be placed to serve the entire stadium and also making sure when putting it in four feet below the surface grade, that it would not come within 18 inches of any other lines. I think that was my favorite design work that I did for TPC, even though we had to keep changing the design as we got more and more information about the site.
My favorite times with the both the traffic and the environmental divisions, however, were going out on field visits. I got to see a concrete water tank being built to hold one million gallons of water, which is apparently a small one. I measured sight distance (how far in each direction someone sitting in a car at an intersection can see) at an intersection to see if a stop sign was necessary to improve the safety of the intersection. I watched the concrete foundations being poured for fifty foot traffic signal poles and saw the rebar cages that we had talked about in Concrete (CE 133). I was there when a new intersection was opened and the traffic lights turned on. I helped survey a property for the new homeowners.
I think my favorite sight visit, though, was watching traffic lights that were strung on strain poles taken down and the new traffic lights on poles unveiled. Traffic lights are actually a lot bigger than I had ever realized. The new plastic ones weigh about forty pounds and are about three and a half feet tall.
Though my internship this summer, I learned a whole lot about aspects of civil engineering and more importantly, I got a taste of what an eight to five job in the working world is really all about. And as an extra bonus, I had a great time with all the people I met at The Pidcock Company.
For more information about The Pidcock Company, visit their website at: http://www.pidcockcompany.com/