Thursday, February 24, 2011

The CM Machine

Looking back at Reno, it's staggering how many people contributed. From event volunteers to bus drivers, sponsors to technical support staff, those to thank number in the dozens.

Tony Songer

As chair of the Construction Management Department, Tony was involved in myriad administrative aspects of the competition. But you may not know that he also coached the second-place Design Build Team and the Building Information Modeling Team AND rode the bus with the students to Reno and back to Boise. That's dedication (or a temporary lapse in sanity).

Joan Hartz

To the CM department, Joan is not known as an administrative assistant — she’s "Mom." Students, faculty and staff are in agreement that the Reno competition could not and would not happen without her. She's a travel agent, accountant, technical support specialist, counselor, image consultant, comedian, courier and supply closet rolled into one.

Casey Cline

Despite the fact that Boise State teams competed in 10 divisions, some of them overlapping, it seemed like Casey was at every single presentation in Reno. In class as an assistant professor and everywhere else, he was a motivating force, whipping the student body into shape on the front end so they would shine on judgment day. And they did, including the Commercial Team and Concrete Solutions Team, both of which he coached.

Kirsten Davis

An assistant professor and official coach of the Preconstruction Team, Kirsten used her attention to detail and hands-on accessibility to support all of the teams in Reno. As questions popped up, she was there with answers for anyone and everyone who needed them. Maybe it's her generous nature, or maybe it has something to do with the fact that she has four degrees and industry experience. Yowsa.

Bill Mincks

Bill took on coaching duties for both the Marine Team and Multi-Family Team, meaning he had twice the heartburn and hopes going into the event. Both teams impressed, with Multi-Family barely missing a first place trophy. A special lecturer in the department, he also was a calming force in the blur of Reno.

Wendy Wendrowski

Even in the ancient world, assessment of risk must have been part of the construction of enduring wonders from the pyramids to the Great Wall. Today, we have experts like Wendy, an adjunct professor who mentored and coached the Determining Project Risk Team. Especially during the planning stages of the overall competition strategy, she was engaged and expressive, two qualities that exemplify the best in the field.

Tom Woodall

As visiting professors go, Tom is one of the most passionate and engaged on either side of the Mississippi. An elite military veteran and heavy hitting professional engineer, he brought expertise, insight and crucial industry contacts to the champion Heavy Civil Team. They call him "The Colonel" for a reason.

Sondra Miller

Moonlighting from the Department of Civil Engineering, Sondra lent her environmental engineering chops and infectious energy to the LEED Team. Having served as faculty-in-residence in Boise State's Engineering Residential College for three years, she is a proven student advocate and friend. And we hear she makes some mean Italian food.

Francisco Castellon

While the foundation provided by Mom and the faculty coaches is essential, imagine what would happen without Francisco. A systems administrator for Boise State's entire College of Engineering, this IT guy extraordinaire has an amazing ability to problem solve and prioritize, even in the face of freaked out, sleep starved victims of computer mischief. Did we mention he does it with a smile on his face?

In the Reno trenches with these core supporters were other staff and volunteers who deserve serious recognition, including:

Student Volunteers

Tim Brewer
Patrick Boel
Spencer Davis
Chuck Dedeker
Adrienne Foote
Jerrod Penttila
Kristin Schmidt
Joel Stevens

Bus Drivers

Jim Shelly
Gary Turner

Boise State also depended on the support of many local companies and individuals in bringing the students to Reno (see post #2 for a comprehensive list). At the highest level of investment, team sponsors included Builders Mechanical Inc. (Commercial), ESI (Design Build), Idaho Youth Education Recycling Program (LEED), MarCon Inc. (Concrete Solutions), McMillen LLC (Preconstruction Services), Staker Parson Co.-Idaho Sand & Gravel (Risk) and URS Energy and Construction (Heavy Civil).

Each team learned from and practiced with industry mentors. These connections provided some of the most key real-world pieces to the puzzle, and every success is owed in part to the time and energy donated. All will be specially honored at the Reno wrap-up celebration slated for sometime in March.

Best for last. The STUDENTS. Regardless of the outcome of the competition, everyone who did the work and threw down in Reno deserves respect and acknowledgment. Ask the problem sponsors what they think of the ASC Student Competition and the reaction will be the same — a chuckle, a shake of the head and personal memories about how impossible and thrilling it was to get it done on the other side. Thank you, Broncos. You did us proud.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Before and After

For those who couldn't be there, this video follows Boise State's regional champion Heavy Civil Team through the moments before their formal presentation, their introduction to the Kiewit panel, and acceptance of the award for first place.

It was a sweet moment, and only the beginning of the honors going to Boise State in the 2011 competition.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Legacy Continues

A little suspense never hurt anyone, right? If you've been following the story of Boise State's CM students and the hopefuls on its Heavy Civil Team, this is your official update on the outcome of the 24th annual ASC Region 6 student competition.

If you couldn't tell from the trophy in Heavy Civil coach Tom Woodall's arms below, the guys won FIRST PLACE, beating out second place Colorado State University and third place Montana State University. Montana has four of the plaques currently on the trophy. With this win, Boise State has three. As the team gathered on stage to accept the award, the massive Bronco contingent made some serious noise. Check back for a video of the moment of victory.

This means the team is bound for nationals in Texas, where they'll have a shot at showing they're the best in the country.

As if one win wasn't enough, two other Boise State teams placed in the top three in their categories. The Multi-Family Team came away with a huge second place, beating third place Southern Utah University and losing to BYU by a reported 3/10 of a point.

The Design Build Team also took second, beating powerhouse competitor Arizona State while Colorado State took first. They didn't look too disappointed with the distinction, and neither was the crowd.

We won't know exactly how the other teams compared to their pools until the ASC tallies and posts all of the scores, but all should be proud of their hard work and achievement. Until next year, they can rally around the Heavy Civil trophy, which is soon to be adorned with a Boise State sticker.

This week, in tandem with a formal media announcement, this blog will be the frame for a lot of particular recognition. Until then, thank you to everyone involved. It was unforgettable.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Generation to Generation

The ASC competition is about much more than bragging rights. On Saturday morning, before the awards are announced, the hundreds of talented students involved have a chance to meet and greet with potential employers. Many of them walk away with internships or interviews, and every contact made is a valuable tool.

Boise State Marine Team faculty coach Bill Mincks explained that the experience over the last three days is intended to help the next generation of construction managers not only discover their passions but also connect them to the right people in the generation already working across the United States and the world. Unlike so many other academic disciplines these days, CM has events like this that essentially are direct pipelines to the job market. If you prove your worth in this arena, chances are you'll get the proverbial foot in the door.

Best of luck to the Boise State undergraduates making the rounds at the fair. In a matter of minutes, the winners of the competition will be announced, but the strategizing for next year has already begun.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Where We Stand

At 5:20 p.m., the six main members of the Heavy Civil Team stood and introduced themselves. Despite running out of time just shy of showing their final slide, their presentation was rock solid, with everyone shouldering some of the tonnage (after this many long days, bad construction puns are excusable).

Then Kiewit, the problem sponsor, laid out how they had completed the project in the real world. While they initially used a barge to float rocks from a quarry to the jetty job site, it turned out that was not the best way, something the Boise State team picked up on early in reviewing the plans.

As a spectator, several things will stick in my mind from the presentation:
  • Laser pointers are not your friend.
  • Sometimes the word "clamshell" just doesn't come to you.
  • The immortal words of Jared Staub: "Wetlands? No touchy."

After all of the teams got their bid book and presentation scores back, Captain Steve totaled the points. The total this year is the highest total of any Boise State team ever to compete in the Heavy Civil category, and it's higher than the winning score at Reno last year.

Without putting a jinx on the situation, I'm happy to say that whatever the outcome, this team deserves credit. They took the challenge seriously, and I hope they will be seriously rewarded. The free hot wings are nice, but trophies are nicer.


It all comes down to this. Six months of intensive training for one day. Interestingly, that's the same schedule runners use to prepare for a marathon. Presentations are going on all over the Nugget, and the atmosphere is electric.

Boise State's Design Build Team, coached by CM department chair Tony Songer, made an elegant case for their proposal. Each speaker was poised, personable and, most importantly, knowledgeable about his part of the package. From sophisticated animations and graphs to off-the-cuff solutions, they made their way confidently through the presentation and Q&A to the handshakes at the end. There's no way to know how they'll stack up against their eight challengers, but Tony and the other faculty and students in attendance were proud to be wearing the same logo.

Earlier in the day on another floor, the Marine Team and coach Bill Mincks were up against a tough panel of industry experts. Tony explained that of the construction categories in the competition, Marine is one of the most specialized and complex. Because of the unusual working environment, it requires a lot more safeguards and hypothetical thinking.

Despite some difficult questions, the team members supported each other through each challenge, justifying their plans with authority. They completed several practice problems before coming to Reno for the real thing, but nothing compares to being under the hot lights and gazes of people who know the subject matter through and through. There is no way to fake it, and Boise State's Marine Team never did. We'll have to see how things shake out in the awards ceremony tomorrow, but the team delivered. It's a Bronco thing.

Down to the Wire

With a few whole minutes to spare, Heavy Civil busted out of their room with their finished materials in hand. We were waiting outside. With a camera. And running shoes.