University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
The University of Wisconsin Collection

Page View

Lilja, Edgar D. (ed.) / The Wisconsin engineer
Vol. 28, No. 3 (December 1923)

Van Hagan, Leslie F.
Some experiences gleaned from summer jobs,   pp. 48-49

Page 48

    BAy LESLIE F. VAN HAGAN, Professor of Railway Engineering
              Illistrated by Louis C. CREW, Ju1nior Civil
  An engineering student, who was working with a
highway commission during the summer vacation, was
sent out one day to cross-section a short stretch of
road. "As I set out in the morning," he relates, "my
superior informed me that the level was in adjustment,
  1V/ion I checked back, I was a foot in error.  It
  7oas soitehat distressing.
so I gave that matter no further thought. Toward the
close of the day, when I checked back, I was a foot in
error. That was somewhat distressing, so the next day
I re-ran the line,-with the same results. About then
the thought presented itself that it had been duly im-
I)ressecl upon me by my surveying instructor that a
surveyor should make sure, before using an instrument,
that it is in adjustment. When I finally checked the
adjustments of that level I found it three-tenths off in
three hundred feet."
  Losing two days work, as this incipient engineer did,
cost some one money,-probably a minimum of ten dol-
lars. In other words, it cost ten dollars to impress
upI)on him the necessity for doing something that he
already been taught to do in school. But he has ac-
quired experience, and that is one of the great gains
to be obtained from summer work.
'The majority of our engineering students at Wis-
consin find work to do during the vacation periods-it
is the exceptional man who plays all summer-and
most of them come back to their studies in the fall with
a broadened outlook, and a quickened appreciation of
the need for a thorough training in their profession.
  One of the most important things gained from sum-
mer work is self-confidence.  This is mentioned fre-
quently in the reports which the men make about their
experiences. "While studying freshman English," says
one, "Emerson's essay on 'Self Reliance' was, figur-
atively, pushed down our rebelling throats; but, in
the slang of the day, 'Emerson was right'. Self-reli-
ance is one characteristic which an engineer must culti-
vate if he is to succeed. This fact was hammered home
during the past summer while I was onl a construction
job, and I can say, with all modesty, that, while I did
not assimilate such a large store of self-reliance, I did
come to realize its importance.  Older engineers toss
problems to the cub-engineer with little or no explana-
tion and expect results. It is tough training, but 'great
stuff'. for it makes one scratch his head and do some
real thinking."
  Another man describes sensations that are probably
common to most young engineers when they find them-
selves on a real job with some one standing over them
who wants results and doesn't care much about the
"method" by which they are obtained. "I did all
my practice problems in surveying with a feeling of
uncertainty; I never felt that I would be willing to
back up my work, and the thought of doing work where
I would be held responsible for results gave me a pan-
icky feeling.  Seven weeks of practical work this
summer knocked most of the uncertainty out of my
  "My first few days with the transit were the hardest.
I puttered around and worried about getting the instru-
ment set up over the exact point. Each time I oriented,
I tested the thumb screws five or six times to make
sure that they were really tight. I was always afraid
that I would delay the party while I was setting up, so
I hurried with a selfconscious haste.  All of these
things worried me; I did not want to show the others
The nerve-racking situation of the young engineer
on a real job with some one standing over him who
wants results and doesn't care about "method."
that I was green at the game, but my anxious concern
certainly proved me to be a tenderfoot. As the days
passed into weeks, my puttering changed into fairly
skillful operation of the transit, and I became more
and more sure of myself. When I set up over a point
I knew it would stay there; I tightened the thumb
Volume 28, NO. 3

Go up to Top of Page