Learning the engineering ropes on the N2
There is no better classroom for a trainee engineer than a rough and dusty construction site teeming with roaring machinery and sweating men and women hard at work.
Thabiso Dladla and Sumay Maharaj are assistant resident engineers [AREs] learning the ropes from seasoned colleagues on the site of the N2 Upgrade between Mthunzini and eMpangeni on the KwaZulu-Natal North Coast.
“We carry out pretty much the same functions as the AREs. We do the inspections, we do quantities, we do assistant instructions, site instructions and we answer any engineering queries that we get from the contractor. We basically do what the ARE does,” says Thabiso.
Sumay, who started on the project in August 2016, and was previously doing pavement and geometric design in Port Elizabeth at the SANRAL Centre of Excellence, says he has already learned many vital lessons since moving north.
“I’ve learnt the complex nature of civil engineering and how everything comes together to make things work. It’s not just pavement design alone. It’s dealing with structures, drainage and geometrics. It’s basically learning how to put everything together and making it work,” he says.
Thabiso said: “I’ve been involved in inspections and assisting the contractor where they need clarification on drawings. When it comes to earth works, we also do inspections on the fill materials and sub grade. Recently we’ve just started doing the asphalting work so we are applying the BTB and we do inspections of all the work carried out by the contractor,” he said.
Sumay says: “I think the main thing is that the design office works differently to the construction site. Sometimes there’s a breakdown in information, especially with drawings, incomplete drawings and things like that. That’s why it’s essential for engineering staff to be on site to answer all these questions.”
“The support from SANRAL has been immense and I’m really grateful for it. They’ve supported me in my studies in university with a full bursary as well as given me the opportunity to train in so many different fields. Hopefully I can register as a professional engineer,” he says.
Thabiso says the project is projected to end at approximately April 2019 but may even extend to June next year.
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