Interns Make the Most of Their Summer at FOX Engineering, and We’re Not Sure Who Reaped the Greater Rewards – the Interns or FOX

Ames, Iowa

At FOX, we take it seriously when an intern chooses to work with us. Their time with us is not spent on menial tasks; we want to see what they’re made of and give them every opportunity to share their strengths. This summer, we had the great pleasure of getting to know four Iowa State University engineering students. Below are their stories; they were gracious enough to share their perspectives on their work and how it might have benefited them. Enjoy!

Lane Volkmann

Please share something about your studies that prepared you for this internship.

I am a senior at Iowa State and will graduate in this fall with a Bachelor’s in Civil Engineering. I chose to emphasize the environmental aspect of civil engineering because of various contemporary issues regarding the environment. This is my fourth summer interning with FOX; I have worked part-time at FOX for the majority of my time at ISU.

Describe the work you were given – was there a typical day or did you do a variety of things?

There really wasn’t a typical day. I worked on several Iowa municipal wastewater treatment projects. In Greenfield, I marked up record drawings prior to drafting for a new plant and managed a hydraulic profile that considered a unit process change from primary clarifiers to a Modified Ludzack-Ettinger activated sludge unit process for the plant in Pella. In Boone, I created the hydraulic profile, organized data for the monthly operation reports for statistical analysis of large flow events and corresponding wastewater parameters, and attended a meeting with staff to discuss Escherichia Coli testing for analysis of future disinfection unit

I had the opportunity to assist a private client with their pretreatment system prior to discharge. I became familiar with and evaluated a dissolved air flotation (DAF) system that was not functioning properly. I helped coordinate with a Pan American representative and considered alternatives of treatment and various models of the current treatment system to mediate the issue. I then helped write a memo to city council involving background, initial findings, testing results and recommendations.

For a residential development in central Iowa, I created a preliminary design for various sanitary sewer options then presented various options to the project manager, highlighting the pros and cons of each. The option that I thought was most effective was eventually selected!

During my first three summers, I was more involved with the civil group; I worked as an Engineering Technician for one of their municipal clients. Each summer the complexity and number of projects I was responsible for increased. These specific internships grew my communication and people skills as I was typically the communication connection between engineers and contractors. I think that observing various engineering projects from start to finish gave me a good view of the construction/engineering relationship and the overall process from an engineering perspective. This summer, I interned with the water/wastewater group. This gave me insight into how an environmental engineering firm functions. I was involved in, at a minimum, one meeting with a professional engineer per week. This allowed me to improve my technical communication skills. Fluid mechanics and hydrology were the most beneficial subjects for this internship. Throughout the summer I frequently worked with the intricacies of hydrology within various wastewater treatment plants. I also performed stormwater pollution prevention observations on active construction sites during four semesters of my undergrad.

So, how was it? 

I have chosen to intern each summer with FOX throughout my tenure at Iowa State. I truly enjoyed working alongside the professionals at FOX Engineering. This was a great opportunity to take material that I have learned in lectures and apply it to real world applications. All of the engineers at FOX are easy to get along with, and were always eager to answer any questions that I had. Some of my work required on the spot learning and I think it was a good test of my ability to work with topics that I have less experience with.

Joy Stone

Please share something about your studies that prepared you for this internship.

While there are classes that have taught me useful technical skills, I believe what most prepared for me for this internship was the ability to systematically approach unfamiliar problems. Learning how to break down a complicated task, asking the right questions, and making progress piece by piece has been invaluable this summer as I worked on projects that I had limited experience with.

How will this internship help you in your career path?

This internship has given me valuable experience in stormwater management which is a field of water resources that I have only had limited exposure to before. In addition, I now have a much greater understanding of what it looks like to be an engineer in this industry. This early in my career, exposure to a variety of fields and engineering jobs really helps me understand what I may be interested in pursuing going forward.

Describe the work you were given – was there a typical day or did you do a variety of things?

A major project that I worked on this summer was the City of Grimes Post-Construction Ordinance inspections. This ordinance requires property owners with stormwater facilities on their land to perform annual inspections of the facilities, maintain records of these inspections, and perform maintenance as necessary. My work primarily consisted of preparing needed information so that the City and property owners can successfully complete these inspections. Additionally, I spent time doing preliminary design work for a permeable paver parking lot project in Marshalltown where we looked at the drainage area to determine how much storage space would be necessary to treat the water quality volume and reduce the pollutants of urban runoff. While most days I spent in the office working on these two projects, I typically had a site visit or a project meeting at least every week. Being able to meet with the individuals that we were doing work for, and seeing the sites in person, really helped me understand why I was doing what I was doing in the office.

So, how was it? 

I learned a lot! I enjoyed being a part of the planning stage for the post-construction inspection project. I was able to get first-hand experience in initiating and carrying out a large project, and I was able to contribute to decisions on how to best proceed. It was challenging to familiarize myself with an entire town and over 70 sites, but I now have a much better understanding of what a fast-growing city is like from the development standpoint.

I am grateful for the experience that I have gained, but I am still early in figuring out what really interests me. I need to try out a few other things (at a minimum!) to get a better idea of what direction I might want to take going forward.

Observations?

Sitting at a desk most of the day takes a little getting used to, but it turns out that taking frequent standing-up breaks makes a big difference! More importantly, perhaps, I noticed how there is no one way to be an engineer. There isn’t a single, standard path that everyone takes to get to where they are, and there is no standard set of job responsibilities that everyone has.

Ian Fletcher

Please share something about your studies that prepared you for this internship.

I am currently studying construction engineering at Iowa State University and I will be entering my third year this fall. I have attended several construction-type classes that have prepared me for this internship but the one that stood out to me was a class that taught me how to read and understand construction plans. I was in the field during my internship here at FOX and being able to read plans was of great benefit when understanding how the project was to be constructed. Another class that helped prepare me for this internship was about surveying where we learned to use a total station, a GPS, and a level to locate field points. This helped in the field when shooting elevations. 

How will this internship help you in your career path?

This internship helped me understand the methods used to complete work in the field. This field experience will potentially help when I begin design projects as an engineer. This internship has also taught me to recognize mistakes made by the contractor as well as many different methods to correct these mistakes. I also learned that there are many unforeseen problems that come up throughout a project. Dealing with these problems takes great communication between the engineer, the observer, and the contractor(s). This extensive communication is something that I will use every day throughout my career and this experience has given me a great example to follow.

Describe the work you were given – was there a typical day or did you do a variety of things?

During my work with FOX, as with many construction projects, every day was a different day. Every morning Mark Wilson and I drove to Iowa Falls to work on two road construction projects. While both projects are considered road construction, there were many differences between the two. The goal of one was to improve Highway 65 running through Iowa Falls as well as improve the surrounding side streets. This project was funded by the DOT, so this brought some unique challenges. The goal of the second project was to install new water main and repair the surface of the pavement.

Both projects brought their own challenges each day. One of my tasks each day was tracking the quantities completed and details. For Highway 65, we were required to follow DOT specifications. It can often be difficult to ensure the contractor follows these specs as some contractors have never worked on a DOT job. It was also my responsibility to keep good communication between the contractors, foreman, the DOT, the city of Iowa Falls, and the project engineer (Mitch Holtz).

So, how was it? 

My time with FOX Engineering was a great experience, and I am grateful for the opportunities that FOX has given to me. There was never a day when I woke up and wasn’t excited to tackle the day in the Scenic City of Iowa Falls. Mark Wilson not only made the workday fun, but also took every opportunity to teach me what he has learned during his time in the construction field. This was a great experience overall and would suggest it to all other students. 

Observations?

Something that I observed throughout the summer is how much I have learned and how much I have grown in my knowledge of the construction and engineering fields. I am much more comfortable talking with contractors and discussing the work that needs to be completed than I was at the start of the summer. I am also more comfortable sharing my ideas with the contractors, the engineer, and the city employees than I was in the beginning. 

Words of wisdom?

One thing that I would suggest when starting an internship with FOX Engineering is to always communicate your thoughts and ideas. Whether these ideas are possible solutions to a problem or ideas on how to complete work in the future, your ideas may be helpful to someone. Also, the more ideas you provide, the more involved you become with the project. Which brings me back to my second suggestion, do your best to become as involved with your work as possible. Being more involved will not only help you become more interested in your work, it will enhance your learning and understanding of your work.

Sean Boylan

How will this internship help you in your career path?

Through this internship, I’ve worked a lot with AutoCAD Civil 3D which is a program that is used to design projects. This will be a helpful tool to work with in the future. For my career with FOX, it will be very important since I will be working with the program for many years to come.

Describe the work you were given – was there a typical day or did you do a variety of things?

I did quite a variety of things. I worked with Scott Renaud on projects in Huxley which is where I designed the project layouts and drew out the projects on AutoCAD. I worked with Steve Soupir on CAD projects as well as counting manholes for a sanitary sewer. I also joined Adam Bolinger in the field for project inspections.

So, how was it?

The projects were very interesting, and I enjoyed the work I did. The CAD projects were interesting since I enjoyed working with AutoCAD Civil 3D. The concrete pouring, however, was a bit slow, but it is understandable why.

Observations?

I’ve realized that Civil Engineering is more focused on designing the project to fit the SUDAS requirements and legal requirements rather than just creating buildings to be bizarre or interesting. This is actually a plus for me, because I think a lot more analytically, so this type of work is preferable to me.

Would you do this again?

Well, I have been offered a position to work with FOX Engineering that I accepted, so I guess you could say I would do it again. However, I’m graduating, so I wouldn’t be able to do an “internship” with FOX again.

FOX Engineering is an environmental engineering firm based in Ames, Iowa. We specialize in water and wastewater solutions for our diverse municipal and industrial clients. Our work varies in size and scope and can be found throughout the Midwest and beyond.