Where are They Now is back! This SciTech blog series shines the spotlight on SciTech intern alumni: workforce champions who have completed their internships, graduated college and are now STEM professionals working in Minnesota.
Today we’re talking with Austin Stroming, a civil engineering intern with Rani Engineering Inc. now working full-time as a traffic planning engineer for Hennepin County.
Stroming’s journey from intern to professional engineer began with a passion for problem solving, a passion that stayed with him and supported him to the start of his career.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Tell us about yourself! What did you study in school, and what were some of your interests?
Stroming: I attended the University of Minnesota Twin Cities and majored in Civil Engineering. My interests at school were mainly robotics, I was part of and eventually ran both a copter/drone club and the Autonomous Snowplow Project for the Ion Autonomous Snowplow Competition in St. Paul during the Winter Carnival.
Tell us about your SciTech internship with Rani Engineering. What were your responsibilities there and what were some of the projects you worked on?
Stroming: At Rani, my main focus was on roadway design, developing and putting together plan sheets using MicroStation and Geopak. This included drafting layouts, calculating quantities, and creating typical sections. I also got to use AutoTurn to determine appropriate driveway radiuses so that semi-trucks could complete the turning movement.
How did you get from there to where you are now?
Stroming: After my internship, Rani had expressed the possibility of coming back after school but they ended up not having work for me at the time so I found Hennepin County at the ASCE Career Fair.
I was excited that this job exposed me to a different side of Civil Engineering and also allowed me to work part of the time outside. I think my two summers at Rani gave me knowledge about how roadways are designed and the fact that Rani wanted to bring me back for the second summer showed I was a decent employee which also helped me land the job.
Talk to me about your current position. What are your new responsibilities and what projects are you working on?
Stroming: At my current job, I am gaining responsibility for the County’s traffic counting program which includes working with and collecting data using road tubes, temporary cameras, and radar counters. I am responsible for responding to requests for traffic data and then collecting or assisting in the collection of said data. This data is used to make planning decisions about future projects such as installing or upgrading signals, installing or removing crosswalks and making speed limit change requests to MnDOT.
What’s something new that you’ve learned about your industry since your internship?
Stroming: My internship was focused on the design side of civil engineering but now I work in the planning side so there are a lot differences in the work I am doing. One of the things I have learned since my internship is how one resident speaking out and emailing the county can get things changed. A lot of the pedestrian crossing data I collect is due to a request from one resident for improvements to be made because they have difficulty crossing the county road safely and feel the improvement would be beneficial to their community.
If you could offer advice to students who are curious about pursuing internships in your field, what would you say?
Stroming: When applying for a position or internship never feel that you are not qualified. Employers do not make their hiring decisions only based on your grades and school work. They also look to see what other kind of activities and experiences you have had that may help you see problems in a different way to offer solutions that are outside the box.
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