Engineering students gain real-world experience through bidding competition

Writer : Isabel A. Rodriguez

After participating in the Associated Schools of Construction competition, NMSU’s Associated General Contractors said they are unsure of where they placed, but were confident they had finished fifth out of a total of 15 teams.

The Associated Schools of Construction student competition was held in Reno, Nev. Feb. 8-11.

Anthony Dominguez, president of AGC’s student chapter, explained how the competition worked.

“NMSU competed in the heavy civil competition this year, sponsored by Kiewit. We were given a set of plans and specifications for the project – an actual project that has recently been completed.

“The company who did the actual project (Kiewit, in this case) judges the competition.”

The team had 17 hours to complete the project, including determining a total price and schedule on how the project will be done.

Projects are presented to judges the following day, and the team that most closely follows the actual project bid wins the competition.

However, only the top three teams are revealed. Based on comments made by some of the judges, the team determined that they placed about fifth.

The team estimated that the budget was $25.6 million, while the actual budget was $25.5 million.

“The project that we were given was in Ketchikan, Alaska,” said Dominguez, civil engineering technology major. “It was a 3.2 mile road that had two bridges and 25 culverts.

“The hardest challenge was faced was scheduling the project. This was hard because we had to figure out what tasks needed to be done before we could start a new task, and which ones could be done at the same time. We also had to account for the weather.”

Tyler Johnson, vice-president of AGC and civil engineering technology major, has participated in the competition three times.

“Our team has gotten better over the years,” he said. “Our presentation was really good for us being an engineering school. Other schools have classes dedicated entirely to the competition.”

NMSU’s team has to find time to practice on weekends.  The team is composed of six members and three alternates.

Kenny Stevens, engineering technology associate professor, serves as faculty adviser to AGC. Although he didn’t accompany the team to this year’s event, he is familiar with the intensity of the competition and said lack is sleep is the toughest part of it all.

“They start at 5 a.m. and don’t stop for hours,” he said. “After they hand in their bid, they stay up all night preparing for the presentation.”

Teams are limited in the resources they are allowed to use to prepare for the project. They are allowed costing books, manuals and media and scheduling software, but cannot depend on their faculty advisors for help, nor are they allowed Internet access.

At the end of the competition is a career fair, which Stevens described as “the mother of all job fairs.

“Hundreds of companies are all looking to hire,” he said.  “There are some amazing job-obtaining opportunities.”

Johnson said that the career fair features big-name companies and is known for hiring on-the-spot.

“I’d like to see more students participate,” he said. “They could land a really good job. It’s not just civil engineering. There are hundreds of companies always looking to hire.”

Ruinian Jiang, engineering technology associate professor, and Sonya Cooper, associate dean of engineering, are also advisers to the AGC team.

“The competition is a really wonderful experience because there are construction-related projects from all over the country,” Cooper said. “The competition itself is extremely rigorous, and students get to network.”

NMSU’s team sponsors included Associated Contractors of New Mexico; Bohannan-Huston; Albuquerque Chapter of Construction Financial Management; Holly Frontier; J.D. Abrams, L.P.; Molzen-Corbin; Mountain States Constructors, Inc.;  Terracon; and Western Refining.

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