Montana State University

MSU engineering students win second place at construction estimating competition

March 9, 2017 -- MSU News Service

The six-person MSU team competed against 13 others in the heavy civil category of the Associated Schools of Construction Estimating Competition, held Feb. 9-10 in Reno, Nevada. Back row from left to right: Chad Welborn, Zach Sullivan, Tyler Pigman, Trevor Kolden, Scott Keller; front row: Lonny Greenwood, Tim McDowell, Brenton Hemp. Photo courtesy Scott Keller.

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BOZEMAN - A team of Montana State University engineering students has won second place in a regional competition that tests students’ ability to plan construction projects and estimate their cost.

The six-person MSU team competed against 13 others in the heavy civil category of the Associated Schools of Construction Estimating Competition, held Feb. 9-10 in Reno, Nevada. The competition drew roughly 180 teams from 45 universities.

Teams competing in the heavy civil event were given 16 hours to produce a bid for rehabilitating a failing rock jetty at the mouth of the Columbia River, an actual project that was designed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and contracted by Kiewit Corporation, the Fortune 500 construction firm that sponsored the event.

That project involved dredging 30,000 cubic yards of sediment, selecting an appropriate rock quarry to provide 5- to 22-ton boulders and transporting 80,000 tons of the rocks to the jetty.

The MSU team, which had no prior knowledge of the actual project, proposed a hypothetical solution that involved constructing a facility at the end of the jetty to off-load the boulders from a barge. The team also proposed hiring a full-time biologist to consider impacts upon salmon, sturgeon and other species, and called for planting eel grass underwater to restore areas disturbed by dredging.

After presenting their solution and taking questions from the panel of judges, which consisted of Kiewit engineers, the team learned that their hypothetical cost was within 10 percent of the original bid submitted by Kiewit.

“The team’s performance was impressive,” said Scott Keller, an adjunct instructor in the Department of Civil Engineering who serves as a faculty coach for the team.

“They did an excellent job of analyzing the risks and sorting out the logistics to develop a plan that met the project requirements on a tight timeframe,” he added.

The team consisted of six students majoring in MSU’s undergraduate Construction Engineering Technology program in the Department of Civil Engineering: Tim McDowell (team captain), Lonny Greenwood, Brenton Hemp, Trevor Kolden, Tyler Pigman and Zach Sullivan. Alternates were Klayton Brauer and Cody Hammel. In addition to Keller, MSU civil engineering adjunct instructor Chad Welborn served as a faculty coach.

“The students achieved this level of success through hard work,” said Keller, who added that the students prepared for the competition with weekend workshops, early morning classes and evening meetings.

As an award for the team’s second-place finish, the MSU Civil Engineering Department received $15,000 from the Beavers Charitable Trust, a non-profit organization dedicated to assisting students entering the heavy construction industry. The money will grow the endowment used to provide scholarships to civil engineering students at MSU.

According to Keller, the MSU team greatly appreciates the support it received from the Montana Contractors Association, Barnard Construction Company, Inc. and Quest Civil Constructors.

MSU civil engineering students have competed at the event for roughly the past 20 years. The MSU team placed first in the heavy civil category in 2012 and 2013, and placed second in 2014.

Scott Keller, MSU Department of Civil Engineering, scottk@montana.edu.

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