“An intensified program of encouraging young men--students, junior engineers and young job employees…to participate in heavy construction will be carried on by The Moles in the coming year…”
--Bill Youngs, The Moles’ First 50 Years
| Large turnout prompted scramble for
In documenting the history of the tight-knit industry group of underground engineers, Youngs noted that the annual affair began as a dinner. But soon thereafter it became much more: a trip to a real construction site, spent with real people in the field. In 1967, 245 students visited the foundation project for what was then Manhattan's signature project -- the new World Trade Center.
Cut to 2006. Almost 500 engineering students -- Youngs men AND women -- from 15 New York City-area colleges and beyond gathered at Ground Zero on March 31. The unprecedented number was welcome, but challenging: “We had to make an emergency run for more hardhats and eyewear,” recalls Joseph Malandro, vice president with EE Cruz & Co., Inc., Holmdel, N.J.
In an era where construction industry talent is an increasingly precious resource, the record number of students participating in the Moles’ Annual Students’ Day couldn’t have been a better sign for the engineers and contractors who set it up. “Often, this kind of exposure leads to internships, redirection of careers within the discipline, better decisions about course curriculum and degree advancement, earlier and better-informed career decisions, better job opportunities and many other benefits to students,” says John Kolaya, a Moles officer and executive vice president for Yonkers Contracting Co., Inc.,Yonkers, N.Y.
The annual event targets a project or multiple projects that exhibits a wide range of construction techniques, notes Kolaya. For example, work stations at Dey Street and South Ferry focused on utility relocations, earth support systems and excavation. The students were able to climb down the stairs under the decking at South Ferry to witness rock blasting and a complex temporary earth support design. “Presentations before the tour provided important background and engineering information for what the students saw in the field,” notes Kolaya. “Speakers at the stations were directly involved with the work. Some were Moles, some were project engineers who recently graduated and were given a large measure of responsibility, some were consultants involved in the design, some were subcontractor representatives who installed the dewatering systems or were drilling the secant pile walls - students were hearing and seeing it firsthand from professionals in the business.”
Planning for each annual Students’ Day starts in November of the previous year. Previous sites have included the Cross Westchester Expressway reconstruction, where students saw mechanically stabilized walls, earthmoving, bridge building and geofoam blocks used to reduce settlement. Last year they visited a Brooklyn water treatment plant. But this year’s site particularly resonated with them. “The reason for the record-breaking attendance apparently was twofold— the site to be visited and the sudden surge in the number of students enrolled in civil engineering programs,” says Gerard Carty, executive director of the Moles.
This year, in a floor of the nearly completed $700-million 7 World Trade Center donated for use by Silverstein Properties, George Tamaro of Mueser Rutledge Consulting Engineers (MRCE) and Peter Rinaldi, Port Authority Manager of the World Trade Center site, described the slurry wall construction and ensuing problems after 9/11 at the World Trade Center site. Mike Attardo of Slattery Skanska described the work at the Dey Street subway connection and Paul Scagnelli, described the work to be seen at the South Ferry station site. Alice Arana, a structural engineer at MRCE, and a former Student Day attendee during her college days at Columbia University, described the design of the foundations at 7 WTC.
“I learned a huge amount about what is going on at the World Trade Center site,” says Nicole C. Small, a civil engineering student at Manhattan College. “It was also fun to see the huge drilling machine that they used to drill stilts into the ground in order to
support buildings as digging was going on underneath them. It was very interesting to see all of the different factors that go into engineering, especially when they are things that aren't obvious until the plans go into fine detail.”
For fellow student Richard Stevens, “the most important things we saw at ground zero were the slurry walls. These retaining walls that secured the subgrade foundation walls were held up with a number of steel anchors, anchored into the bedrock below the surface. It was interesting to see these rock anchors in action after discussing them in geomachanics class.”
He describes the progression through the tour to the site of the new $800-million Ferry Street Station project, which is connected to the WTC site:
“My group actually stood over an excavation while they were blasting nearby, and felt the ground shake. We also stood right on the edge of an enormous excavation alongside the Ferry Station in Battery Park. Once again, flashbacks from geomechanics class. The huge steel cylinders that held up the side walls of the excavation continued for about a block and a half and created what looked like s spider web of steel suspended in air. The heavy duty back hoes and drilling rigs looked tiny at the bottom of the excavation. I've lived in NYC all my life and I never thought I would get to see a new subway tunnel being built first hand. But it got better when they actually took us down into an excavation that was under the sidewalk, about 80-100 feet below ground. Standing under a sidewalk held up by enormous steel columns is not something you get to do everyday.”
Arranging a construction site tour for 500 people is no easy feat. The powerpoint screen in 7 WTC competed with the sunlight. Students sometimes had a hard time hearing the contractors speak at the stations over the sounds of construction. “The presentations were very informative, but other than that, there were so many things going on that I didn't have any impression of them,” notes Small. “However, I think the Moles trip was
excellent, and setting it up must've been a hassle in itself, but it was very worth it for me.”
Not a hassle, but definitely a labor of love. “This year we had an extra 40 Moles members just to help,” says Malandro. “Every participating contractor went above and beyond.
They basically have to carve it into their schedules.”
“The Monday after the field trip in my class, we discussed what we saw and related it to what we are covering in the classroom,” says Dr. Moujali Hourani, faculty advisor at Manhattan College. “It was really overwhelming for the students. They saw the structures that we talk about in class..”
Next year’s visit, no matter what the site, will include a new twist, at least for Manhattan College students, says Hourani. “What we’re doing next year is that the students will be required to write a report on the field trip and relate it to a topic in the classroom. If they are going to see piles being driven or foundations being driven, they will relate it to what they are doing in soil mechanics class.”