By Stuart Thornton
Friday, January 14, 2011
Stephanie is a transportation engineer for Fuss & O’Neill, an engineering firm in Manchester, Connecticut.
Stephanie’s job duties include conducting traffic signal studies, roadway-planning studies, and working on street improvement projects.
During her childhood in Wilbraham, Massachusetts, Stephanie gravitated towards math and science. “I got the hang of math at a very young age, and I liked it,” she says. “I liked how you could always get just one answer. It’s not multiple, so you know if you are right or wrong.”
Stephanie discovered transportation engineering while working towards her degree in civil engineering at Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York. “As I took these classes, I realized I liked more of the ground aspect than the structural building aspect,” she says.
MOST EXCITING PART OF YOUR WORK
“It’s a new challenge every time. Not every project is the same. You have the same basic concepts, but there are different technical ways and different solutions to solve every problem.”
MOST DEMANDING PART OF YOUR WORK
“I would say that everything has to be technically correct, so we do a lot of work with AutoCAD and computer-aided software. Whatever you type in, the computer is going to produce, which makes everything a lot easier than hand work, but at the same time if you mistype or something doesn’t line up, you have to go back and rethink that solution.”
HOW DO YOU DEFINE GEOGRAPHY?
“Within engineering and what I do with transportation, land, and roadways, I would say it’s the type of ground that you are building upon.”
Stephanie says that there is one particular aspect of her job that is tied closely to geography. “We do a lot of permitting, so if you are in a wetland, on the coast, or in a flood-hazard zone, those factors relate to geography,” she says.
According to Stephanie, looking at a region’s geography is essential when working on a roadway. “When you are building something say in the middle of a mountain, you have to slope the road so it [the water] drains off the road and doesn’t pond right into the middle of the center,” she says.
Stephanie’s firm has a new tool for field work that utilizes geographic information system (GIS) technology. “The camera has a GPS compass that is compatible with Google Earth,” she says. “You can take a picture in the field, come back to the office, upload the pictures, and then import them to Google Earth, where they will show up at the exact locations in which they were taken. This helps us greatly in the field, especially when we do roadway studies for roadway segments that are miles in length.”
SO, YOU WANT TO BE A . . . TRANSPORTATION ENGINEER
Attend a public hearing in your area. “[Meetings are] open to the public if they are having a new roadway or school built or something,” Stephanie says. “They give a whole presentation on what’s going to happen. You can ask questions and listen to what other people have to say.”
Stephanie recommends getting a tour of an engineering or architectural firm to learn about engineering.
Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry aspect Noun
view or interpretation.
software program used by engineers, geographers, and other professionals to help design and model land areas and build infrastructure.
civil engineer Noun
person who works in the design and construction of buildings, roads, and other public facilities.
edge of land along the sea or other large body of water.
Encyclopedic Entry: coast compass Noun
instrument used to tell direction.
Encyclopedic Entry: compass compatible Adjective
complementary, or capable of working together productively.
person who plans the building of things, such as structures (construction engineer) or substances (chemical engineer).
field work Noun
scientific studies done outside of a lab, classroom, or office.
Encyclopedic Entry: field work flood Noun
overflow of a body of water onto land.
Encyclopedic Entry: flood geographic information system (GIS) Noun
any system for capturing, storing, checking, and displaying data related to positions on the Earth's surface.
Encyclopedic Entry: GIS (geographic information system) geography Noun
study of places and the relationships between people and their environments.
Encyclopedic Entry: geography Global Positioning System (GPS) Noun
system of satellites and receiving devices used to determine the location of something on Earth.
Google Earth Noun
computer and mobile application used to access and explore virtual globes, maps, and other geographic information.
to move toward or be attracted to something.
position of a particular point on the surface of the Earth.
Encyclopedic Entry: location mountain Noun
landmass that forms as tectonic plates interact with each other.
official, written permission to do something. Sometimes called a license.
available to an entire community, not limited to paying members.
land on which a road or path is built.
slant, either upward or downward, from a straight or flat path.
electronic programs of code that tell computers what to do.
the science of using tools and complex machines to make human life easier or more profitable.
traffic signal Noun
light, sound, or other indication that vehicle traffic is moving.
movement of people or goods from one place to another.
area of land covered by shallow water or saturated by water.
Encyclopedic Entry: wetland