ORIGIN: Starting the Conversation

Wallace’s Civil and Structural Engineering Interns Get Out of the Office and On Site!

07.27.22 by Kyle Haskett
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What is the point of a summer internship from a company’s point of view? 

At Wallace, we believe an internship is an investment in our future. It is our opportunity to give unique real world work experience to our future employees.

This summer Wallace has taken on 16 interns, with a breakdown of 6 civil interns, 9 structural interns, and 1 landscape architecture intern. Here at Wallace, we have an intern curriculum that focuses in part on getting interns out into the field to experience real world construction. I recently had the opportunity to take the interns from our Tulsa office out on a few site visits. The project I took them to was an Aldi grocery store in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma.  

Since the Aldi grocery store is a smaller construction project, we were able to see the project through multiple stages of construction. This was a great benefit because most internships are only for a few months, and therefore many projects will not have construction phase changes during their internship. 

Additionally, I decided to take our civil interns out on this site visit as well, even though our scope of the project was structural. I wanted to get all of our interns out and expose them to as many aspects of our industry as possible. Just because they are a civil intern this summer doesn’t mean they won’t come back again and be a structural intern next time. This thought process proved fruitful. At the end of one of our site visits,  a civil intern asked what they would need to do to become a structural intern because they were very intrigued with what we had seen.

The first construction site lesson we got to teach our interns was about weather delays. It’s always a good idea to stay in contact with the contractor to discuss site progress if you are planning a site visit. Our first site visit was scheduled to see rebar in place and concrete being placed for the foundations. Due to rain, our first visit had to be pushed out over two weeks. This length of delay was caused by the daily rain, forcing the contractor to start over with the base material preparation for concrete placement. 

First, we visited during rebar and concrete placement for the spread and continuous shallow foundations and stem walls.

Followed by the slab base material placement, MEP line placements, and slab concrete placement.

Next, we saw the steel erection, including structural steel and joist and joist girder placement.

Lastly, we will go out to view the metal stud framing of the walls. 

We will also meet the summer interns from SGA Design Group, the project architect, at the site to discuss common construction issues. This will be  another great opportunity to get our interns into the field and to meet their fellow industry peers.

While on site, we discussed constructability issues and met with the project contractors, Crossland Construction. Sometimes things look fine on plans but in the real world it’s very difficult construction. The design team – contractor relationship is a crucial symbiotic relationship that can greatly enhance construction experience. Exposing our interns to how to approach this relationship is something we try to focus on.

But let’s see what our Tulsa interns had to say about their experience…

When asked what he learned, Harvey Cooper, a civil intern who will graduate from the University of Oklahoma in 2023 noted, “I learned that I know very little about job sites.” I remember feeling the same way when I got out of school but I didn’t have internships that took me out to many job sites, so Harvey will have a leg up there. Harvey also noted that ,“School encourages an independent, one-dimensional approach to problem solving, whereas the professional side of engineering encourages collaboration and creative problem solving on all steps of a project.”

When I asked Kennadey Zimmerman, a structural intern who will graduate from Oklahoma State University in 2023, what surprised her the most about construction sites, she replied, “How much construction does not go exactly as planned, and how many things should be an RFI.” This is sometimes the hardest part of our jobs as structural engineers because we plan for a perfect scenario and then we have to resolve conflicts encountered by the contractor due construction existing in the real world.

Sloane Johnston, a civil intern who will graduate from Oklahoma State in 2023, said the greatest benefit of site visits was it “helped me visualize sites and understand building methods. After seeing some of the pieces of plans in the field and how they work, connect, and are built in real life, it’s easier for me to visualize the 2D plans.” 

Finally, I asked Camden Patovisti, a structural intern who will graduate from Oklahoma State in 2023, what was the best part of his site visits experience. Camden said, “The best part was spending time with my coworkers and diving deeper into the design process. I also loved going to eat afterwards and connecting with the other interns.”

A few of the other site visits the Wallace interns have been able to go on include:

222 North Detroit in Tulsa

The Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma

Metro Technology Centers Public Safety Academy in Oklahoma City

JD McKean Library at Oral Roberts University

The Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources Building at Oklahoma State University


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Kyle Haskett, PE


Kyle received both his Bachelor of Science in Architectural Engineering and Master of Science in Civil Engineering-Structural Emphasis from the University of Oklahoma. He is…

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