Montana State University

Engineering students' success at estimating competition puts MSU atop rankings

March 3, 2014 -- By Sepp Jannotta, MSU News Service

Building on a string of remarkable success from recent years at the estimating competition of Associated Schools of Construction held each February in Reno, Nev., Montana State University engineering students put up top-three finishes in each of the five categories they entered. Their success included a first-place mark in the mixed-use category. MSU's mixed-use team, pictured, features (from left) Connor Buckley Jess Buck, Cody Henneman in the front row, and Jesse Flattum, Peter Schultz, Taylor Davis, Scott Keller (faculty coach). Photo courtesy of the Associated Schools of Construction.   High-Res Available

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MSU News Service
Tel: (406) 994-4571

BOZEMAN – Building on a string of remarkable success from recent years at the estimating competition of Associated Schools of Construction held each February in Reno, Nev., Montana State University engineering students put up top-three finishes in each of the five categories they entered. Their success, including a first-place mark in the mixed-use category, has earned MSU the top ranking among the 40-plus schools from the West to enter the estimating competitions.

“It’s unprecedented for our university, not only to place in every category we entered, but to be ranked ahead of schools like Stanford, USC, BYU, Arizona State, Colorado State and all the other, much bigger programs that were competing, ” said Dean Peterson, the MSU professor of civil engineering who teaches the preparation class for the Reno competition. “The students put in a lot of hard work to achieve this level of success, including sacrificing their free time to attend seven different weekend workshops, as well as a number of early morning and evening lectures and presentations, all above and beyond the heavy class loads they have to take to graduate with their engineering degrees. They did MSU, and all of Montana, proud.”

The competition, which pits student-led teams against one another in estimating theoretical bids on multimillion dollar projects, gives teams 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.

MSU’s win in the mixed-use competition, its first in that category, came for their work on a bid package that estimated the costs and other factors involved in building a 16-story hotel complex with an adjacent retail and office building. The project ran upwards of $30 million.

The mixed-use team consisted of Jess Buck (captain), Connor Buckley, Jesse Flattum, Peter Schultz, Taylor Davis, Cody Henneman and Shane Austin.

“They survived a very rigorous questioning process (from the judging panel) during their presentation by maintaining their composure and having the right answers,” Peterson said. “Their (building information modeling) and detailed schedule sealed the deal.”

In addition to mixed-use win, MSU posted second place in marine structures, second in heavy civil, third in commercial and another third in concrete solutions.

The heavy civil team – Ryan Spence and Clint Van Voast (co-captains), Chris Muhlbeier, Joe Zink, Kyle Blunn, Terrence Seales and Aaron Rustan – which had won the category the past two years, finished just 6 points (out of 1,000) behind Colorado State University. Their estimating project was a road construction job to widen the highway through Cottonwood Pass for the California Department of Transportation, which involved completing work through some very high and steep road cuts, all while maintaining traffic flow on a busy road.

MSU's marine structures team – Tyler Decker (captain), Billy Dempsey, Tyler Komenda, Sam Holt, Dillon Reller and Lee Flemming – put together a bid package for a $200 million project to build the piers for the cable-stayed Pitt River Bridge near Vancouver, British Columbia. After competing in the marine structures category for the past seven years, the second-place finish was MSU’s first top-three result.

The commercial team – Andrew Jones (captain), Bryson Buska, Rick Thompson, Dani Montick, Joe Perrelli and Zac Lingle – worked up an estimate on the concrete construction for a $27 million battalion headquarters building at Fort Carson near Colorado Springs, Colo.

The concrete solutions team – Dylan Ridgway and Torey Seward (co-captains), Anthony Harmon, Rick Opsahl, Carter Bignell, Jake Foulger and Kent Marcuson – worked up a bid package to build 10 concrete arches for a bridge in the city of Fort Worth, Texas. The project required plans for the construction of a casting yard adjacent to the bridge, where the huge concrete arches would be cast prior to being set with the help of two 300-ton cranes positioned over the river.

Andrew Jones, a junior from Scappoose, Ore., majoring in construction engineering technology, said the whole process of preparing for the competition with Peterson’s course was one of the most valuable experiences he’s had at MSU.

Jones said his team needed that training when the judges in their category informed them they would only get to submit 15 pages for a proposal they anticipated would be five times that long.

“That was the main challenge, figuring out what we could remove from our binder so that we could edit it down to 15 pages,” Jones said. ““I think MSU does a great job of preparing us in general, but this class is definitely one of the best I’ve taken because it teaches you what’s important and what you need to focus on taking away from the other courses and experiences you have.” 

Contact: Dean Peterson, (406) 994-6134,