Construction Management Students Advance to National Competition
A team of construction management students from Pennsylvania College of Technology placed first at a recent regional competition in New Jersey, winning $2,000 and an all-expense-paid trip to the national level in Texas.
The team one of three six-member groups to represent Penn College at the Nov. 9-12 event won the Heavy Highway category in the 17th Annual Associated Schools of Construction Region 1 Student Competition, held at the Crowne Plaza in Fairfield, N.J. Second-place honors went to the University of Maine, while Alfred State University finished third.
Members of the first-place team were Nick A. Angelopulos, Williamsport; Richard M. Donovan and Stephen A. Langendoerfer, both of Honesdale; Kyle S. Flook, Camp Hill; Daniel M. Kmetz, Sayre; and Paul F. Mueller Jr., Glenelg, Md.
Another Penn College contingent placed third in the Design/Build category, behind Roger Williams University and the University of Maine. A third team competed in the Commercial division, which was won by The Pennsylvania State University. Wentworth Institute of Technology finished second in that category; Central Connecticut State University placed third.
"I am very proud of all of the students who took part in the competition. They should all be commended for sacrificing their personal time to represent the college and for performing so well," said Dennis R. Dorward, associate professor of construction management. "It is quite telling when Penn College students can compete and place against university construction management programs that can be two or three times larger than ours."
The teams were coached by Dorward and Wayne R. Sheppard, assistant professor of construction management. Dorward will accompany the first-place team to San Antonio in March, while Sheppard travels with a team from the Penn College Construction Management Association to a simultaneous national competition in Nashville, Tenn.
All of the teams were presented with mock projects that approximated real-world construction jobs, and were judged on such skills as estimating, bidding and construction techniques.
"These projects are actually being built around the country," Sheppard said. "The judges from the sponsoring companies are intimately involved with these projects, and you can bet they had more than 16 hours to complete these same tasks!
"The sheer scope of what is required, combined with the time allotted and the stressful environment, all contribute to testing the students' knowledge about construction and their ability to problem-solve and prioritize. The companies involved know they are seeing some of the finest construction management students from the Northeast, and to stand out from that group is truly a noteworthy accomplishment."
Penn College's first-place team was required to "build" a bascule bridge pier and operator's tower in Virginia working from a suspended platform and barge on the water, coordinating the schedule with other contractors in the area, avoiding disruption of wetlands and an existing bridge and keeping a shipping channel from being blocked by the work.
"Going into this competition, our group spent a lot of time and effort working in the computer lab, meeting with companies and researching as much as possible because, as students, we did not even know what a bascule bridge was," Flook said. "We had to find out means and methods, as well as what preconstruction activities needed to be done to build a pier for this type (of) bridge."
The group relied heavily on the Internet, scoured the college's new Madigan Library, analyzed past competitors' successful presentations and, as Langendoerfer noted, even toured the Market Street Bridge replacement project in Williamsport.
"We had to prepare for the worst and hope for the best," he said.
That concentration continued once the Heavy Highway group arrived in New Jersey, as members wasted no time in getting down to business. Teammates rearranged and removed furniture in one of their hotel rooms, creating the necessary environment for their work. The following morning, they got a quick briefing from Skanska USA Civil, the company that designed that portion of the competition, and were given the blueprints and specifications.
"Having so much information at once, (we) split up the plans and specs to individuals in our group, and we started getting familiarized with the project," Flook said. "That day went so fast."
No wonder: Between 8 a.m. and midnight that Friday, each of the eight teams had to assemble a complete written bid proposal, including a detailed cost analysis, schedule, labor requirements and plans to perform the work itself.
"And let me tell you, we used every second of that time to complete our portion of the assignment. It seemed as though every time we looked at the clock, three to five hours had gone by," Flook said. "But working so diligently together allowed us to complete this project on time and to the best of our ability."
Seventy-five percent of the score was based on the bid proposal, with the balance tied to the oral presentation the time "when you have to pretty much sell your company," Mueller noted. Those closed-door presentations to Skanska representatives took place Saturday; Sunday was devoted to the awards breakfast.
"We took it to a new level," Donovan said. "We blew them out of the water with our proposal, scoring 120 out of 130." One of the judges told the group that, even if it failed in its presentation (it didn't) the team was in good stead due to its impressive bid package.
The success also was a reflection of the students' Penn College education; as Angelopulos and others said, the experience "wrapped up everything we learned here."
The group was aided along the way by several companies and individuals, including Hal Gee at Glenn O. Hawbaker Inc., who provided estimating software; Chuck Phillips, Steve Carl and Tony Fusco at KCI Technologies, Baltimore; Rodney Wood at P.J. Dick/Trumbull, who lent assistance at the Market Street Bridge project; and Bill Braizer with the U.S. Coast Guard Bridge Administration.
Additionally, the teams needed a lot of support from the Penn College community, and especially thank Susan B. Deuel, manager of technical support for Information Technology Services; and Linda R. Banzhaf and Lisa J. Caputo, secretaries to the dean and assistant dean of construction and design technologies, respectively.
Members of the other two teams were:
Design/Build ( Sponsored by Shawmut Design and Construction) Joshua R. Davenport and Justin D. Smith, both of Chambersburg; Michael D. Felix, Wyomissing; Kyle W. Hauck, Mifflinburg; Joshua R. Lodge, RR 2 Montrose; and Matthew T. McGrath, Lititz. Their assignment was to renovate and update a 1960s-era, four-story building used as marine/oceanographic laboratory and presentation space.
Commercial ( Sponsored by Whiting Turner Contracting Co.) Ryan P. Becker, Johnstown; James P. Craft, York; Kent R. Grace, Boyertown; Justin J. Kovaleski, Olyphant; Keith W. Scheib, Newport; and Matthew R. Yocum, Dresher. The team's project was to manage renovation/construction of a 23,000-square-foot education and research facility in the life-sciences field.
For more about the ASC, visit the organization's Web site .
For more information about the four-year construction management major or any of the other academic offerings in the School of Construction and Design Technologies call (570) 327-4518, send e-mail or visit online.