Summer interns put skills to work in real-world projects

Intern Katrina Hilton collecting a water sampleIntern Katrina Hilton collecting a water sample This summer, civil engineering undergrads put what they’ve learned in the classroom to work in a professional environment as part of the 10-week Summer Transportation Internship Program.

Working in a variety of offices at the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT), interns gained hands-on experience in roadway engineering, bridge design, roadside vegetation and erosion control, bicycle and pedestrian safety, and more.

This year’s participants, and their internship offices, were:

  • Christoph Brostrom, Regional Transportation Management Center
  • Helena Cassino Thomaz, Bridge Maintenance and Inspection Unit, Metro Division
  • Maranatha Hayes, Office of Traffic Safety and Technology
  • Katrina Hilton, Office of Environmental Stewardship, Air and Noise Unit
  • Connor Mills, Bridge Office, Design
  • Kevin Olm, Design Office, Metro Division
  • Cody Sedbrook, Bridge Office, Hydraulics Unit
  • Kaitlin Spomer, Office of Traffic Safety and Technology, Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety
  • Xiafein Teo, Office of Project Management and Technical Support
  • Erik Tungland, Metro Construction, Inspection Unit

Hilton is studying at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio, and the other nine interns are students at the University of Minnesota.

Interns say they appreciated the opportunity to gain professional experience, enhance their technical skills, make connections with MnDOT staff, and work on real-world projects being conducted across the state.

“I was able to design actual plan sheets that will be used in the development of state projects in the coming months,” Olm says. “The knowledge that my work will be directly influencing future construction left me excited and engaged in a way that I have never been in any other professional or educational environment.”

In addition, students valued seeing what day-to-day work is like for transportation professionals. For example, Brostrom says he enjoyed seeing how engineers put their knowledge and skills to practical use.

Intern Kevin Olm (left) reviewing design plans at a future construction siteIntern Kevin Olm (left) reviewing design plans at a future construction site “In school, we’re taught that engineering is all about what we know. But in reality, it’s about being able to adapt and use our knowledge to help further and improve projects, even after they’re initially completed,” he says.

This firsthand glimpse into the transportation profession prompted other students to consider additional related studies—and potentially their own careers in transportation.

“This internship piqued my interest in traffic and transportation engineering and has drawn me to take more classes related to the topic,” says Spomer. “It has also allowed me to make connections in a great organization that I hope to maybe work for some day.”

Now in its sixth year, the internship program is offered jointly by CTS and MnDOT. 

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