Practicum Reaction Paper

For the summer of 2009 I moved to Loveland, Colorado to work for the Department of Interior: Bureau of Reclamation. I worked on hydroelectric power plants where it was my job to gain knowledge of engineering concepts used in hydropower generation and associated water facilities. This means I spent about 75 percent of my time at the Eastern Colorado Area Office in Loveland and the other 25 percent visiting the many sites managed by the Bureau. I found this opportunity through USAjobs.gov, a great site to search for entry and intern level positions with the government. Upon receiving notification of being hired, I was given my assignment and supervisor information. Because I was an intern for the Great Plains Regional Office, I could have been stationed anywhere from Montana to Texas, so once I found out I was stationed in Loveland, Colorado I got in contact with a fellow Student Career Experience Program (SCEP) intern to find out possible housing arrangements in the area.

Moving to another state for the summer was quite a task. First, that meant driving 1800 miles to get to work. It also meant finding a place to live, shop, and play. After days of searching for an apartment I thankfully came across a woman who works at a realtorís office. She offered me a room in her house for a low monthly rent. I went to check out the living arrangements and graciously accepted the offer; she lived in a nice 3-door garage home located in a great neighborhood in Ft. Collins. She has a son my age still living at the house which made it a lot easier to meet other people too.

At work it was my task to learn about the facilities managed by the Bureau of Reclamation. My main project however was to fix a faulty pressure reducing valve in Estes Power Plant. I spent my first few weeks investigating the problem and finding possible solutions. I researched alternative and replacement parts and made calls to get price quotes. I ultimately decided to redesign the entire system with all new parts; this decision was based on its lower cost and its potential to save money in the long run due to a reduction in repair costs. As part of the project I had to write a proposal for the new design, seek approval by engineers and procurement, have the parts bought and shipped to the plant, and lastly installed by a plant mechanic. While working on this project I developed my project management and AutoCAD drafting skills. I also learned a lot about the science behind hydropower generation and water management by visiting various facilities and conversing with other Bureau employees.

Hydropower is generated through the potential energy stored in the water at a higher elevation. This water then falls a certain distance (referred to as head) and passes through the turbine blades which spin the rotor. The rotor spins inside of a stator (the generator) which produces electricity. The hydropower plants can also be reversed and used as pumps for a pump-storage system. The plants typically generate power during peak hours and pump water back up at night. It astounded me how tightly water is managed and divided up in the West. Since it is scarce, water rights is a big deal to the region.

Beyond the science, this internship introduced me to the field of energy generation. At first I only wanted to work in the defense industry for a company like Lockheed Martin or Northrop Grumman, but after this experience I am now open to more career paths. I intend on further developing my knowledge of energy and thermodynamics through an internship with Constellation Energy during summer 2010. Furthermore, due to my new intentions to pursue a career in energy as well as previous and forthcoming internships, I was recently named a recipient of the SUEZ Energy Generation NA Scholarship. I have this internship experience to thank for my newfound interests.

Back to Main Page

Last modified: 11 May 2010