Penn College two-year team earns national championship at Vegas builders show

Published 03.12.2019

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Pennsylvania College of Technology’s two-year entry in the National Association of Home Builders’ student competition brought home a championship trophy from Las Vegas – the institution’s first team to do so since 2011.

Students from the college’s School of Construction & Design Technologies finished first among 14 teams in their category when winners were announced at the association’s recent International Builders’ Show. Members are Nicholas T. Bonsell, of Tyrone; Hanna M. Gibson and Nathan I. Tabon, both of Allison Park; Joe J. Hetrick, of Painted Post, New York; and Drew P. Miller of Williamsport.

“Each member of this team brought interdisciplinary strengths to the competition, and the outcome they were striving for was achieved,” noted Carol A. Lugg, dean of construction and design technologies. “Veteran coach Barney Kahn does a great job of developing and inspiring the team. His dedication to this event is a critical component for their success.”

The two-year Penn College team displays its championship trophy (earned in the National Association of Home Builders’ student competition) at the International Builders’ Show in Las Vegas. From left are instructor Barney A. Kahn IV; students Joe J. Hetrick, of Painted Post, N.Y.; Drew P. Miller, of Williamsport; Hanna M. Gibson, of Allison Park; Nicholas T. Bonsell, of Tyrone; and Nathan I. Tabon, of Allison Park; and instructor Levon A. Whitmyer.Second place in the associate-degree competition went to Brigham Young University-Idaho Team I, and the third-place finisher was Utah Valley University.

A four-year Penn College team also competed in the Residential Construction Competition, finishing 25th out of 37 teams: Michael J. Deragon, of Fort Washington; James B. Feingold, of Freehold, New Jersey; Stephen M. Helminiak and Katherine L. Mertes, both of Williamsport; Lindsay A. Lane, of McKean; Jordan M. Scott, of Cogan Station; and Andrew J. Zwigard, of Florham Park, New Jersey.

“As future leaders in the industry, both of our competition teams did a fantastic job of representing Penn College and their professions at the International Builders’ Show,” the dean added. “(Building construction technology instructors) Levon Whitmyer and Barney Kahn were also actively involved in showcasing the strength of our programs to industry representatives.”

Among four-year college programs, the top schools were Michigan State University, Penn State University, University of Denver and California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo.

The annual NAHB Student Competition, held this year at the Westgate Resort and Casino, gives students the opportunity to apply skills learned in the classroom by completing a project for a real construction company. Those proposals are submitted to a group of company executives who act as judges, hearing the students’ defense of their work in front of an audience.

Balloons, a poster and a commemorative cake help the School of Construction & Design Technologies say "Congratulations" for the students' performance in national competition.The two-year team – acting as a construction management contractor proposing a single-family dwelling in a South Carolina development – was tasked with preparing a complete set of working drawings, a detailed cost estimate and a comprehensive construction schedule for the home.

Members of the four-year team were challenged to facilitate the acquisition and development of more than 152 acres in central Oklahoma. Their written proposal included market analysis, site design, cost estimate and schedule, site management and logistics, a sales and marketing strategy, financial and risk analyses, and sustainability.

Industry leaders viewed teams in action, and faculty members and students benefited from the judges’ debriefing of those presentations. Maria Coutts, president of the Pennsylvania Builders Association, watched performances by the four-year Penn College and Penn State teams, while Don Brown from Dan Ryan Builders – a strong supporter of the college’s construction program – was on hand for the two-year team’s proposal.

National championship aside, the entire Penn College delegation was busy throughout the show; students and faculty alike served as ambassadors for their school in a variety of event venues.

Feingold, due to graduate in May, was recognized for “his outstanding contributions to the Penn College Construction Association” as one of 24 student award winners, Whitmyer said. “He is an incredible young man, with a bright future as he goes to work with K. Hovnanian Homes in New Jersey.”

Among other highlights of the trip:

  • As members and subcommittee chairs, the faculty members attended the Student Chapter Advisory Board meeting. The college’s chapter was recognized during the show as “the future of the residential construction industry,” Whitmyer said.

  • Whitmyer addressed NAHB Region #3 – comprising Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. – about the PA Build My Future event held on campus last fall, and explained Penn College’s reputation among construction educators. He also sat in on a roundtable discussion about the National Housing Endowment’s Homebuilding Education Leadership Program, which last year awarded a $73,838 grant to the college.

  • Students staffed a trade-show booth on behalf of NAHB and NHE, serving as the “face of those two great organizations” for 90 minutes, Whitmyer said. “The students created a format in which they put all the giveaways into water bottles that were being handed out,” he added. “Great idea from a great group of students!”

  • The college participated in a Kohler reception for student chapters and grant partners.

  • Students and their faculty mentors talked with manufacturers and other industry representatives on the 600,000-square-foot show floor, engaging in technical conversations and previewing the latest products to hit the market.

  • Kahn and Whitmyer spoke with master carpenter Norm Abram, longtime host of “This Old House” and “The New Yankee Workshop,” among the major guests and sponsors for the event.

For more about majors in Penn College’s School of Construction & Design Technologies, call 570-327-4518.

For information about the college, a national leader in applied technology education, email the Admissions Office or call toll-free 800-367-9222.