athenaeum logo

Student co-op experience leads him to Louisiana’s ‘Great Wall’

Follow Michelle Cometa on Twitter
Follow RITNEWS on Twitter

Supplied photo

Corey Smith helped build a wall to protect Gulf residents from impending hurricanes.

Preparing for the fall hurricane season starts early in the summer especially for those in the southeastern United States. Many remember Hurricane Katrina battering New Orleans in 2005 with 30-foot storm surges of water brought on by 120 mile-per-hour winds. 

Efforts continue to both clean up damage from Katrina and prepare for future hurricanes. As part of the preparation, the New Orleans community, the Army Corp. of Engineers and RIT co-op students like Corey Smith, are helping the city build what is considered the largest flood wall in the world—a 2-mile long, 150-foot deep surge barrier, nicknamed The Great Wall of Louisiana.

Smith recently completed a four-month co-op with Weeks Marine, a construction and dredging organization, building an 
extensive seawall and gate system in Lake Borgne, outside of New Orleans. 

As an assistant field engineer, Smith helped design the temporary working platforms needed for equipment that would drive the 155-foot piles into the earth to support the new levee and gates. The platforms had to hold the pile drivers, cranes and swing booms that were in operation nearly around the clock.

“I had to inventory the steel beams we had on-site and design the platforms to withstand the working loads to be applied,” says Smith, a fifth-year civil engineering technology student. “I was there while two of the main gates were being built.”

Smith heard about the Weeks Marine operation as part of a student team that competed in the annual Regional Cost Estimating competition. He inquired about co-op opportunities with the organization and began working last spring. 

“I recommend that students participate in any industry-sponsored competitions or clubs relevant to their major so that they can get out and make contacts in the professional world,” says Smith. “And when you’re in the field, be a sponge. If you are given opportunities, don’t be afraid to take advantage of them.”

One such opportunity presented itself while Smith was on the construction platform during his co-op. One of the hydraulic hammer operators fell ill and Smith was quick to offer his services driving the piles for the gates. 

“I have experience with German-engineered equipment,” he explained, laughing as he described the look on the faces of the seasoned construction crew when he offered to take the helm of the crane. “I said, ‘I can do that,’ and I jumped up into the cab.” 

While the majority of his work took place in the field, he worked on CAD drawings and participated in project meetings. 

“I like the balance of the field work and the office work,” he says. 

Smith will be balancing more than tools in the next few months as he prepares for his upcoming wedding in the spring, birth of his daughter and completing final classes in preparation for his graduation in May.


Supplied photo

Corey Smith helped build a wall to protect Gulf residents from impending hurricanes.