National Engineers Week 2023 Spotlight: Sobi Babu and William Bayne

In honor of National Engineers Week, the Department of Aviation is spotlighting two engineers on the airports' Capital Development team,

Sobi Babu - Civil Engineer

Sobi BabuSobi Babu has been working with Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) for the past 22 years and describes herself as "positive, hardworking, and loyal" which are her own personal “PHL” values. As an engineer with the Capital Development team, she manages projects in active construction, design phase, and preliminary studies. Coming from a civil engineering background, people often assume that Babu mainly works on bridges and buildings, however, her work involves geotechnical engineering, fluid mechanics, transportation engineering, water resources, stormwater management, surveying, and more.

Day to day, Babu takes on reviewing project plans, attending meetings, and finding time to attend site visits. This includes coordination between electrical, plumbing, civil, and mechanical disciplines. Managing the communication between parties and reviewing project documents is vital to responsibly steward resources and execute a project on time as well as within budget. Babu takes care to balance time out in the field and office to ensure that the work matches up and any issues are addressed proactively. Even after 22 years, she is motivated and inspired in her work, “I stay motivated by the people around me! All the engineers here are hardworking and enthusiastic. They are very helpful, and I like the working environment [at PHL]."

Babu is currently working on a project at Northeast Philadelphia Airport (PNE) that involving culverts that di­rect water underneath and around the airfield. The current design of the culverts causes clogging and requires frequent cleaning. The project team is tasked with the design and construction of concrete box culverts and realigning the channel. This improvement will reduce maintenance needs and decrease both animal and human intrusions. Without drawings of the existing culverts, the team had to get creative and prepared a strategy of detecting where the rebar reinforcement is by using structural scanning. An antenna rolls over the culvert, sending pulses into the structure to detect the steel. Utilizing innovative technology to fill in information gaps has not only been part of this project, Babu found that improvements in GIS / GPS technologies have made surveying and finding coordinates a much smoother process. Engineering technologies are constantly evolving,­ and Babu emphasizes that “practice makes perfect!”. Asking for help from colleagues helps to keep engineers up to date with the advancing field.

William Bayne - Civil Engineer

William BayneWilliam Bayne has worked as a civil engineer for the last five years with PHL. He would describe himself as “curious, open-minded, and competitive.” The competitive part, however, is competing with himself to be better than he was yesterday.

A day in the life of Bayne's role involves interacting with his teams for each project, including coordination with contractors to keep the projects moving along. There is a balance between doing field work and office work, but for project managers (PMs), it is 80 percent office work and 20 percent field work. This has been the biggest challenge in Bayne's career, transitioning from a field inspector to a PM. When asked what motivates him at this stage of his career, he replied, “I consider myself at the beginning of my career, so there is so much to learn, and I try to learn as much as I can to gain the necessary experience to become a knowledgeable, reliable, and competent voice for others. Although last year was the first time I had the responsibility of a project to manage, it was a good amount to challenge and motivate me to prove to myself that I could handle the responsibility.”

Similarly to Babu, Bayne shared that working with the surveying app on his phone for utilizing GPS and Bluetooth technology was helpful on the apron for line striping purposes. Although the modern technology has many benefits, there are still limitations to the quality of the satellite signal on a given day, and at times engineers must rely on boots-on-the ground surveying methods. As technology continues to progress, it is important for engineers to discern which method is appropriate based on a given scenario. William wants to move past the stereotype that engineers spend their days buried at a desk doing mathematical equations - the reality is engineering actually requires strong written and verbal communication skills and there is a lot more collaboration than people normally expect.

The best advice that Bayne shared for young people who are interested in pursuing a career as an engineer is to seek an internship or shadow an engineer. He shared his own career journey, stating “I had the opportunity to shadow nurses when I was young because my mom worked at a hospital, so I had the chance to see if I wanted to pursue the medical field. That taught me early on that I did not want to do that, which led me to where I am now as an engineer.”


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Christine Ottow
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