Thursday, February 17, 2011

Game Time

Walking to the conference room for the problem presentation in the black hours of the morning, it was kind of like being part of a steelhead run. Everyone was quiet, eyes forward.

The 14 Heavy Civil teams were greeted by the competition trophy and representatives of Kiewit. As the problem sponsor, Kiewit presented the day's challenge -- a capping repair on a jetty head off the coast of Oregon, near Tillamook (land of happy cows). Before this moment, the teams had no idea what the job would be.

The details were presented by Darrin Shelby, who managed the project through its completion. While the plan includes only six drawings, he explained that by no means was the execution simple. Curious whales and salmon fishing rigs, beach-goers and campers, the sweep of the tide and the horrendous weather the NW coast is known for, permitting and environmental concerns -- it seemed like the added stresses on top of the basic technical demands were endless.

"But that's what you've got," Shelby said.

The teams were given a chance to review the plan and ask questions. Then Kiewit laid out the time line: 10:30 p.m. cut-off for proposal submission / 7 a.m. turn-in time for presentation materials.

"Don't plan on jumping out of the elevator and throwing your proposal in our doorway in the final seconds," said Kiewit's Darren Seaman. "There's about 100 yards you have to sprint."

Then the panel wished the competitors luck, and it was off to the war room.

Just like everything else involved in the Reno competition, the set-up of the team rooms is planned well in advance. While only the team members can be in the inner sanctum during the action, we were able to get a glimpse of their digs. The judges also will see the layout when they drop by (unexpectedly), and what they find has an effect on their overall opinion of the group. If the room is functioning like a professional office, then everything is aces. The students even have to answer the phone as a company would.

And how did Boise State's Heavy Civil team feel on the front end? Confident, but not cocky. And what does their coach, Tom Woodall think?

"This team could come in first," he said. "This team could do it."

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