Montana State University

Engineers turn hot dogs into scholarships

February 11, 2004 -- by Jean Arthur

College of Engineering's Construction Engineering Technology students (front row) Scott McHenry, Mark Zabrocki, (back row) Brett Walchuk, Mark Larson and Jayson Snortland are among the members of Associated General Contractors Student Chapter who raised $5,000 for a scholarship. (Photo by Stephen Hunts, MSU News Service)   High-Res Available

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MSU News Service
Tel: (406) 994-4571
Bozeman -- Six thousand hot dogs and some engineering know-how have created one of Montana State University's largest student-funded donations for a scholarship.

Hot dog sales, at 75 cents each, also helped send 28 students from the College of Engineering's Construction Engineering Technology (CET) program to a regional competition in Reno, Nev. last week.

The Associated General Contractors Student Chapter (AGCSC), with 60 CET students, donated $5,000 to the Nick Clare Scholarship endowment fund last month. The memorial scholarship was established in 2002 after Clare was killed in a November 2001 automobile accident. Clare was president of the AGCSC at the time of his death. The first $1,000 scholarship was give to an engineering student this year.

"We make about $200 a week," said club secretary Mark Zabrocki, a junior from Billings. "We also raise money from an annual auction during the Montana Contractors Association convention. We used the money to offset the cost of the trip to Reno for the ASC Reno 2004 Construction Management Conference and Student Competition last week."

Several AGCSC students spend their Friday noon hours selling hot dogs, Polish dogs, chips and pop at a table in Roberts Hall. Theirs is a quick lunch -- from boiling to bun to students in minutes.

CET is among the oldest accredited construction education programs in the country. The 250 MSU students in the four-year program explore earthwork, highway technology, project management and methods. They learn the technology, supervision and management of engineering, and industrial and building construction.

The program's content is designed to prepare students for professional employment in construction companies, consulting engineering companies, surveying and photogrammetry companies, industrial and manufacturing companies, and government agencies, including the military.

Competitions such as the regional event in Reno provide realistic problems for teams of construction engineering students to solve.

The MSU teams competed in four divisions: commercial building, design-build, heavy civil and residential. Each division has a different challenge. The commercial building team had to plan a two-story addition for a hospital. The heavy civil team worked on a $30-million fish ladder around Oregon's Bonneville Dam. The residential team dealt with a housing development and sales pavilion.

"We have six people on a team," says Mark Larson, a senior from Dutton. "We received our construction challenges at 6 a.m. and had until 10 p.m. to turn in a project bid. The project could be something like widening and repaving a road in Yosemite National Park or building a $15 million parking garage."

The students must compile a contractor's bid including how many hours may be involved with an excavator or laborers and subcontractors.

"We have had to call subcontractors, who are actually part of the event, for bids," Zabrocki said. "Last year one of the role-playing subs pretended to be crazy drunk, trying to trip us up. It's pretty realistic."

"All the MSU teams did an excellent job in their estimating, scheduling and proposal presentation," said Michael Whelan, program coordinator of CET. "Results include a third-place finish in the design-build category. The project was a police station in California that is currently under construction."

The third-place design-build team included Anthony Copley (team leader), Stuart Doyle, Nate Jacobs, Ean McClure, Josh Peterson and Trent Short.

"I learn more in a weekend of competition than in a semester of classes," Larson said.

While the program aims to prepare students to perform the basic planning, estimating and scheduling functions of a constructor, the students have no intention of trying to build a better hot dog.

"We do give out the Golden Wienie Award every year to the person who contributes the most effort to hot-dog sales," says Brett Walchuk, a junior from Ronan. "I couldn't tell you how many hot dogs that person actually sells, but the winner is usually there every Friday selling dogs."

Contact: Michael Whelan, 994-6134