Texas A&M construction science students had a part in helping construct and inspect the newly opened Sky Pool, a transparent, acrylic swimming pool suspended 115 feet in the air that stretches between two residential towers in London, England.
For the past five years, students from the department of construction science have traveled to London in the spring to intern with Irish-based Ballymore Group to work on the project.
“It’s a really good feeling whenever you see people enjoying what you helped build,” said construction science student and 2021 Sky Pool intern Asa Cable.
Steve Rodgers, who oversees the department’s London study abroad program, said he enjoys seeing the students transition from tourists to foreign citizens of London, working collaboratively on a British construction site.
“It truly is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” he said, “because you’re not 20 or 21 years old getting to live in a major European world city and explore it the way you get to do it on this study abroad.”
Darlyne Rivas-Valencia, a construction science major and 2021 intern, said the internship was her first time working on a construction site.
“It kind of changed the whole perspective for me because before I got there, I didn’t know whether I wanted to be in a construction site or just in an office or what I wanted to do,” Rivas-Valencia said. “Then, getting there, I realized that I love the on-site parts so much more. I understand we have to do all this office stuff, but I honestly prefer everything on site.”
On-the-job experience is critical for construction, Cable said.
“You can’t learn everything from a classroom,” he said. “You must have first-hand exposure to a job site, at least I believe.”
A spokesperson for the Ballymore Group wrote in an email that the company has enjoyed its relationship with the university, and noted that Cable and Rivas-Valencia helped the Sky Pool deck completion and technical tasks including “working out tower crane dismantle exclusions and learning about the fundamentals of building functions.”
Toward the end of the project, the interns made calculations and cleaned and quality-checked the Sky Pool structure.
Rivas-Valencia said the best part was being treated as a Ballymore employee rather than an intern.
“They listened to us and heard our ideas,” she said. “They took us to meetings and all this other stuff, and I was able to see a little bit of everything – the background and the outside of what it is to actually be involved in a construction project.”
They were tasked with creating solutions to different problems and were notified when things were right, wrong or could be better, she said. One item they suggested that was added to the project was putting grip tape on the steps to make them safer for users.
“That was one of the things that we were like, ‘Oh, my God, we helped with the Sky Pool,’” she said. “We helped create this thing that they’re going to use for the rest of its time. It made me feel proud of being involved in something that not a lot of people get to.”
Rodgers said Ballymore and other companies the interns have worked with since he took over the program in 2015 are impressed with the A&M students.
“While it’s different students, the quality of the student is the same, and these students ask remarkable questions and know much more than these construction companies expect them to know,” he said.
Rodgers said the opportunity opens people’s eyes to what is available to them outside of College Station and their hometowns, especially first-generation college students.
“That transformation in the way they see the world is remarkable to say the least,” he said.