First-Hand Experience: My Co-Op with LaBella
My name is Kyle Maring and I have co-opped with LaBella for 6 months. The co-op system is a program built into my education at Rochester Institute of Technology, where students work for a company in their field of study to gain a better understanding of day-to-day operations.
I first applied to LaBella back in October 2016 thinking that they focused mostly on civil engineering, unaware of everything else they bring to the table. I landed in the Buildings Engineering Department, with no idea what it included when I got hired.
I quickly learned in my first week that the Buildings Engineering division does a lot of work for Rochester Gas and Electric (RG&E) and New York State Energy and Gas (NYSEG). This includes project management for all work on the hydroelectric power plants both in Rochester and in Plattsburgh, located in Northern New York.
My first assignment in January was a hydroelectric project located at Kents Falls in Plattsburgh. At the time I had no idea where to start, so I was instructed to begin estimating all of the work for the project so that we could begin putting together a bid package to send out to construction contractors. Out of everything that I have done in my time here thus far, I’ve enjoyed calculating all the estimates the most. Looking at plans and estimating the work is like putting together a puzzle and hunting for all the pieces.
I have had the opportunity to get out from behind my laptop and take field trips to multiple hydroelectric stations here in Rochester and other locations around New York. One of the very cool things that I found traveling around to each station is that every intake design is unique to the topography and location of the river to the powerhouse. Due to flow and pressure requirements to run each hydroelectric station, some require a “penstock,” which is a large metal pipe that carries water to the power station to be fed into the turbines.
Going into this internship, I had been around the construction industry for a while because my dad had worked for the New York State Department of Transportation. Therefore, I got to see the work occurring but didn’t realize how much time and work goes into the planning and procurement of construction contractors. It isn’t as simple as calling up a company on the phone and asking to do work; there are estimates that have to be developed as accurately as possible, along with more coordination and planning meetings than I could have imagined— everything from schedules, safety plans, and reviews of each different iteration of drawing sets must be discussed. I have developed a new appreciation for the entire planning process and the project managers that put in so much work day-in and day-out.
Someone once told me that that each day is dictated by the first phone call or email you receive. I have never known this to be truer than while working alongside a project manager. There are constantly new hurdles to find a solution to.
At LaBella, I’ve seen a side of civil engineering that I had not thought about before, and I am very thankful I was given the opportunity to see what project management is all about. I'm thankful for all of the help and guidance from everyone at LaBella- including always making time to answer any question I asked! I will not forget all of the new things I learned and can’t wait to apply them this upcoming year when I return to my Civil Engineering Program.
Kyle Maring is a 4th year student at Rochester Institute of Technology majoring in Civil Engineering Technology.