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Outside view of Engineering Systems Building.

Engineering Student Helps Lay Groundwork for HRBT Project

By Sherry DiBari

Ryan Woodcock, a mechanical engineering major and full-time field engineer on the HRBT Expansion Project, was surprised when he joined the largest highway construction project in Virginia history. "I didn't understand the magnitude of a project this large until I actually arrived on site my first day," he said. "It's unlike anything I've ever done before."

Woodcock - who started as an intern on the project and was then hired then full time - primarily supports work with the Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM), nicknamed "Mary." The TBM is a variable density slurry machine that can bore up to 50 feet of material per day. "It's absolutely massive and is like its own city," he explained.

As a field engineer, Woodcock's duties include developing work plans, organizing technical drawings and developing 3D models. He also writes reports detailing daily work progress and inspection specifications.

In the future, Woodcock, who wraps up his bachelor's degree this summer, hopes to move into a research and development role within the field of mechanical engineering.

For now, being part of the massive $3.8 billion project is enough.

"I've watched it go from a patch of land to an entire excavated shaft to the beginning of a tunnel and it has been fascinating in all facets," he said. "Working on the tunnel team and actually seeing the history being made every day has been an amazing experience."

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