Kedra Dierking: Digging in to geothermal

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Kedra Dierking, a senior architectural and civil engineering major, is digging deep into Missouri S&T’s geothermal energy project. Photo by B.A. Rupert

Kedra Dierking‘s parents recently converted their home in Union, Mo., to a geothermal energy system. Like many home improvement projects, it involved some retrofitting and rearranging. But that conversion pales in comparison to Dierking’s summer project on the S&T campus.

 Dierking, a senior majoring in architectural and civil engineering, is digging deep into Missouri S&T’s geothermal energy project. On an internship this summer with Kansas City-based JE Dunn Construction Co., the company overseeing the effort, Dierking is responsible for keeping track of well-drilling operations. As JE Dunn’s project engineer intern, she tracks the depth of each well drilled, as well as the date of each drilling, the PSI levels, grout test results and other data, and makes note of it in bore logs for the company. So far she’s recorded information about dozens of the more than 600 wells that will eventually be drilled as part of the project.

She may be keeping bore logs, but the work is anything but boring.

“I love it,” she says. “I was completely shocked and ecstatic when I learned that I got this internship. I love that I’m able to get out in the field.”

Dierking is also responsible for tracking the inventory of pipes and other materials stored at a warehouse south of Rolla. She also conducts safety training for new subcontractors and takes notes at meetings with staff from the university, JE Dunn and subcontractors.

Her typical day begins at 7 a.m. in a makeshift office in the basement of the U.S. Bureau of Mines Building on Bishop Ave. After a check of email, she visits the work sites.

“It was a little overwhelming at first,” she says of the internship. “There was a lot to take in, because it’s just such a big project.” When it is completed in 2014, the geothermal system will provide heat to 15 buildings as well as chilled water to the majority of campus buildings.

“There’s a lot of mechanical engineering to learn,” Dierking says. “But JE Dunn has been great to work with, and they’ve helped me learn a lot about how everything works.”

Dwight Davis, JE Dunn’s project manager for the effort, says Dierking “has helped us out in many ways. It’s nice having an extra set of hands.” He believes the internship will benefit Dierking as well.

“The timing of the project worked out well because Kedra is able to see a project starting up and to work with us on a lot of the initial tasks,” Davis says. “She’s able to see that there is a lot more to starting a large project than digging a hole in the ground.

“We like for our interns to do the same type of work they will encounter as a full-time new hire,” Davis adds. “This allows Kedra to get a good feel for what is expected and to ultimately decide if construction is the right career for her.”

Watch S&T’s Geothermal Project groundbreaking:

Story by Andrew Careaga

Video by Terry Barner

Get the latest news on Missouri S&T’s Geothermal Energy Project, including parking updates.
Learn more about the civil, architectural and environmental engineering programs at S&T.

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