Montana State University

MSU engineering students continue success at estimating competition

February 26, 2013 -- MSU News Service

For the fourth time in six years MSU’s College of Engineering is home to the Associated Schools of Construction estimating competition’s heavy civil trophy. Pictured here with their trophies are (from left) coach and civil engineering professor Dean Peterson and students Scott Taylor, Cole Jensen, Dennis Laubach, Andrew Heinen, Luke Lindberg and Brannan Sheely. Photo courtesy of Sarah Notarius.   High-Res Available

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MSU News Service
Tel: (406) 994-4571

For the fourth time in six years, Montana State University engineering students have won the first-place trophy for the Rockies region in the heavy civil category at the estimating competition of Associated Schools of Construction held in Reno, Nev., each February.

Dean Peterson, MSU professor of civil engineering and a coach for the Reno competition, said it is an understatement to say that MSU has historically done well in this competition - which pits student-led teams against one another in estimating theoretical bids on multimillion dollar projects in civil engineering, mixed use, concrete, marine and commercial categories.

"Six wins in the past decade for MSU's civil engineering students are the most for any school in regions 6 and 7 (in the Rockies and the Pacific Coast)," Peterson said.

The heavy civil trophy that goes to the winning school for the year has spent so much time in Bozeman - six years out of the past 11 - that MSU's heavy civil estimating team has put Bobcat stickers its main feature, a large model excavator, Peterson added.

Montana State fielded four other teams in the competition and also notched a second-place finish in the mixed-use category and a third in the concrete solutions category.

Teams have a little more than 16 hours to pull together and present a feasible and professional project plan, after which industry professionals judge students' estimates on projects that companies sponsoring the event have already built.

The heavy civil competition involved a project to rebuild a section of highway in Hawaii that required teams to essentially hang the highway on the side of a lava mountain with rock anchors and retaining walls - with crews to work primarily at night to maintain traffic flow during the day. Luke Lindberg, Scott Taylor, Cole Jensen, Andy Heinen, Dennis Laubach, Brannan Sheely and Peterson (coach) made up MSU's heavy civil team.

The mixed-use team had to bid a job to build a five-story residential complex in California, complete with retail shops and restaurants on the ground level floor and a basement parking garage. That team consisted of Jordan Marney, Eric Smith, Dylan Casey, Melinee Fischer, David Spencer, Nathan Iltis and Scott Keller (coach).

The concrete solutions team - Craig Barta, J D Umbaugh, Will Thompson, Taylor Schumacher, Nathan Luke, Jake Losett and Peterson (coach) - was tasked with bidding all the concrete needed for a major foundation project.

The MSU commercial team - John Butcher, Andrew Jones, Tyler Ragen, Ben Williams, Colin McKennan-Radler, Cody Harris and Scott Keller (coach) - estimated costs for a seven-story hotel with two other adjacent structures in Denver.

MSU's marine construction team - Ryan Spence, Tyler Decker, Patrick Dale, Chris Muhlbeier, Joe Zink, Pat Brooke and Zac Morris (coach) - took on a project to construct and install huge precast anchors to hold the cables for the floating bridge at the Hood Canal (Washington). The anchors would have to be built in drydock, then floated out to their sites, sunk in 300 feet of water, before being filled with rock ballast on the bottom.

Peterson said the 30 students who participated in this year's competition are an exceptional group of hardworking and highly motivated young engineers. 

"Each one put in hundreds of hours over the past six months - above and beyond their normal classwork - and they still managed a group grade-point average of 3.21 for last fall semester," Peterson said.  "But they aren't a bunch of eggheads that you wouldn't want on a construction jobsite - they are hands-on, application-oriented young engineers who are 'shovel ready' to go to work."

Dean Peterson, (406) 994-6134 or