Sara Gasparich
Internship Final Report


Using GPS to Record Outfalls on Mill Creek



I used a handheld GPS device to verify and record the location of outfalls into Mill Creek from Tausick Way to 13th. For three Wednesday from 8-12 and three Fridays from 8-2:30 I worked with two streets division city employees, driving around in their truck and taking the data points.

General Skills Update

In addition to the technical GPS skills, the most important thing I learned is the importance of asking the right questions. I was unsure of exactly what my internship entailed (Would I be taking water samples? Which outfalls do I need to record?) so I needed to ask questions up front. Unfortunately, I at first had absolutely no idea what I was actually doing and so sat back and tried to absorb what was going on. After the first day of working in the channel with Jason and Brian, once I got my bearings, I should have gone home and written down exactly what I thought/planned on doing in my internship. Instead, I waited for Jason and Brian to tell me what to do, which they did, but a little planning/questioning in the beginning of my internship would have saved me a lot of time and trouble at the end.

Matching pictures with outfalls at the time they were taken would have saved me a lot of work later. Instead of physically working until it was time to leave, I should have saved a half hour or so to wrap up my day’s work right after I finished.

Specific Experience/Logistics

The experience I’ve gained so far is both technical and social. The major technical experience regards using the GS-20 handheld GPS device. For the GS-20 to work, the screen must display two chains and a high ratio of satellites. The chains represent the GS-20’s connection to the power belt and the Navy satellite control. The subsidiary satellite ratio needs to be somewhere around 5/7. I’ve also learned how to transfer data, wirelessly, from the GS-20 to a computer using GISDataPro. Additionally, I’ve learned about Water Treatment in Walla Walla. Finally, I hear a lot about what Brian and Jason’s day-to-day life is like on the job. For example, we passed a construction site last week on our way to the Water Treatment Plant. The workers laid a new curb but it did not match the old curb on either side. The new curb was a great deal higher and will cause water to pool in the catch basin. The construction company (Opp and Seibold) will have to rip the curb out. Also, we’ve talked a bit about the jet truck, which is a truck with this big hose attached to it that they use to clean out the sewage pipes. This internship gives me answers to questions I wouldn’t even think to ask.

Socially, I’ve learned some about the inner workings of the city services and a great deal about Jason and Brian, the two Streets division employees teaching me about their jobs and GPS. This internship made me realize the importance of asking questions. It is a regular part of a job to ask questions. In fact, I think questions show a degree of comprehension and a desire to do things the right way, rather than the lack of understanding that is sometimes attributed to asking questions. Jason knows how to ask all the right questions—I’m still learning. I’ve also learned the size of the smallest legal buck you can hunt in Washington, the birthday’s of Brian’s daughter, dad, and brother, what kind of soup Jason gets at the Walla Walla Depot (where we stop for break) and a variety of other personal things. It’s good getting some more connection to this area.

Time Commitment

I worked with Jason and Brian from 8-12 on Wednesdays and 8-2:30 on Friday. I worked in the office on the same days at the same time, although I came in at 8:30 or 9:00 instead. George was entirely flexible about what time I came in, but I knew I’d have to get there early or else I just wouldn’t want to go.

I was usually really tired during my internship. I have class from 9-4 on Tuesday’s and Thursday’s and 1-4 & 6-9 on Wednesday’s, so adding internship at 8 am on Wednesday and Friday mornings made my week quite long. I guess it was actually only 29 hours a week of class and internship, but it felt like a lot of structured time for a college student who needs to do a lot of outside-of-class work. But, I am clearly glad I did the internship, as I attest to below.


This internships value to me is obvious. Traditionally, I am gaining technical field experience and will have a reference project to draw upon when seeking employment—i.e. internships look good on resumes, however wrong it is to do something for that reason, it’s true. Plus, I found out that I definitely do not want to do office GPS work for the government. However much Jason and Brian gripped about wages and the GPS man’s high salary, in the end, it was agreed that they could never sit behind a desk all day for their work. Whenever we visited the GPS office, they would really work at engaging us in conversation—I think it gets lonely up there, with just your computer to keep you occupied. Furthermore, I get to ride along with two city employees twice-a-week and learn what their lives are like.

My value to the community lies in identifying spring source run-off into Mill Creek. I can potentially use this data to keep pollutants from flowing into Mill Creek through city pipes. Additionally, I helped update the Walla Walla City GPS directory. We correctly identified storm drains and outfalls and changed the pipe type to outfall. The outfalls include pipe size and condition attribute information. I also inputted the metadata for my map (beginning/end date, purpose, etc), which was kind of exciting.

Take-Away Point

I really enjoyed and value the internship experience I gained this semester, but I do not think I’d be able to do another internship while at Whitman. All said and done, I am certainly glad I did the internship. It was so easy to get set up with an internship, something I never expected in these competitive days. And I learned how to act in the real world. I experienced city work from the on-the-site man, secretary, division boss, and GIS employees’ points of view.