It’s on to the nationals for construction management students

A team of construction management students from Sacramento State are set to do battle in early April with teams from universities such as Auburn University, the University of Cincinnati and Iowa State University for a national estimating championship.

The six-member team advanced to the nationals by capturing first place in the regional competition in Reno last month, beating out nearly a dozen other West Coast universities. First place teams in the “heavy civil” division from seven regions nationwide qualified for the national competition, which begins the first week of April in Dallas.

The victory in Reno is the first time construction management students from Sacramento State took home a first place award from the Associated Schools of Construction competition, considered one of the toughest in the country for students in construction management programs.

Sacramento State’s team captured first place in the regional competition for a project that involved excavating the Carmel River Lagoon to create more habitat area for two endangered species: steelhead trout and the California red-legged frog.

Also at the regionals, the Sacramento State construction management team took home third place honors in the design-build division, and competed in divisions for commercial building projects and residential projects.

“The win and third place finish show that we have very talented students who are learning to become some of the best professionals in the construction management field,” said Mikael Anderson, assistant professor of construction management and faculty coach of the team. “The competition gives them the sort of experience that construction firms are looking for in potential employees.”

The six-member team—Michael Frey, Gareth Figgess, Quinn Hofmann, Joe Chretien, Jaime Cochran and Ben Carrington—began preparation for the competitions back in the fall. Anderson led sessions on topics such as time management and teamwork skills. The team also reviewed real construction projects by going over drawings, specifications, estimates and schedules. They also discussed heavy civil construction concerns such as paving, excavation and grading.

“One of the most important things we go over is how we can identify trouble items, things that can cause delays and add costs to projects,” Anderson said. “The preparation takes a lot of work and this is in addition to their normal, demanding load of construction management, engineering and business classes.”

The toughest part of the preparation comes just before the competition when the team gives a mock presentation on a construction project to representatives from local construction firms.

And then comes the actual competition. At 6 a.m. on the day of the competition, the team gets a complete set of drawings, a bid worksheet, and labor and equipment rates for the project. The six-member team has 16 hours to develop their solutions, methods, planning and costs for a successful “bid” to proceed with the project.

On the following day, with virtually no sleep, the team must prepare for an oral presentation to the construction industry sponsor of the project. For two years in a row, Sacramento State’s team has submitted bids that came closet to the actual bid submitted for the project.

Senior Gareth Figgess said he learned some lasting lessons from the competition. “I learned the importance of pre-planning and having a structured approach for tackling a project then being able to adapt that plan to fit the needs of the project and the team as issues arise,” he said.

Anderson said he believes the high caliber of Sacramento State construction management students should make the University a top contender for honors each year. “After winning the regional, I think we will now be known as a team to watch,” he said.

Anderson also credited the team’s success to the efforts of local industry leaders who support the work of the construction management program at the University and provided competition expenses for all four Sacramento State teams.