Feb. 21, 2019

Here is one of the ways NDSU students get real-world experience

construction management and engineering computer lab

Teams of NDSU construction management and engineering students tested their ability to complete a construction project under a tight deadline. They packed nearly a month’s worth of work into a handful of hours. It was a challenging task that took teams through a hands-on experience with twists and turns until the last minute.

In the end, feeling worn out but accomplished, each of the students appreciated the skills and industry connections gained from the monumental test of their classroom knowledge and ability to think critically.

They gained this experience through the Associated Schools of Construction competition in Nebraska City, Nebraska. It asks teams of university students to complete a real-world construction project in three days. This year, NDSU’s Associated General Contractors of America student organization sent 24 students who competed in teams of six. NDSU teams finished second and third in their respective divisions. 
“The whole competition is basically a capstone project compacted into 18 hours,” said Nick Jensen, a senior construction management major. “You have an entire semester to prepare a capstone proposal. This competition can get very stressful because there is a lot that needs to get done. It’s demanding but also a lot of fun.”

The competition begins before the students arrive in Nebraska. Each of the teams receives an early look at their competition project so they can submit a request for qualification, which is a standard business procedure that shows a client – in this case the judges – the company can do the job.  NDSU’s teams met several times to finalize the document and mentally prepare for competition.

Once at the event, the competition starts at 6 a.m. Teams are given a project, plans and specifications and it’s time to go to work. Students are required to come up with a construction schedule, cost estimate, site logistics, and plans for safety and quality. Many times, competition organizers ramp up the intensity with major project changes late in the event. Students need to adjust on the fly. When the proposals are finished, teams give a 10- to 20-minute presentation about their project to a panel of industry professionals. 

The event helps students apply their classroom knowledge, learn how to work under pressure, work in a team and enhance their communication skills.

“It’s important to be a good communicator in our career,” said construction management junior Dawson Mann. “That’s a huge takeaway from this competition. You learn how to communicate effectively with your team members and with the judges to help them fully see your vision for the project. It’s a great collaborative effort for everyone on a team.”

NDSU’s teams are advised by Gary Smith, professor and graduate programs coordinator of construction management and engineering. “The process is, perhaps, the most realistic scenario of a construction project they will likely encounter,” Smith said. “Employers have commented to me many times that seeing a competition on a resume brings attention to that application because they can see the student being committed to more than just achieving their degree.”
NDSU has nearly 300 student organizations that provide hand-on experience and a way to connect with other students on campus. Explore the options that will help you achieve success in and out of the classroom.    

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