Montana State University

MSU engineering teams fare well at regional competition in Nevada

April 7, 2009 -- By Michael Becker, MSU News Service

MSU's Pre-construction team, which placed third in its event at the ASC regional competition in Reno, Nev. (Left to right) Ryan Pokorny, David Anderson, Dustin Crume, Ryan Davenport, Greg Yperman and Chelsea Hutten. (MSU photo by Kelly Gorham)   High-Res Available

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MSU News Service
Tel: (406) 994-4571
BOZEMAN -- Sixteen hours in a cramped hotel room with five other people might not be everyone's idea of a great time, but for a group of Montana State University juniors, it was part of one of the most rewarding engineering experiences of their young careers.

The group of juniors was one of seven teams from MSU that attended the Associated Schools of Construction's regional competition in Reno, Nev., in February. Students from more than 30 western schools competed at the annual event.

The juniors -- Dustin Crume, Ryan Davenport, Chelsea Hutten, David Anderson, Ryan Pokorny and Greg Yperman -- competed in the Pre-construction event. Pre-con, as it is known, deals the building process between design and breaking ground, such as estimating costs, logistics of the work site and legal aspects.

The team finished third in its event, beating teams composed of mostly senior students from schools from across ASC regions six and seven, including big-name schools like Arizona State and BYU. Virginia Tech, a school of about 30,000 students, placed first.

"It gave me so much confidence about how we'll be as professionals," said Pokorny, the team's captain. "And to compete and beat bigger schools gives me confidence in how I'll be on the real job. It shows me the things they can't teach me here."

In Reno, the team had to perform a pre-construction analysis of a nine-level office building and parking garage in downtown Los Angeles, an analysis that was done in real life by PCL Construction, a company with offices across North America.

In addition to addressing specific concerns of the project, such as having to quiet the construction site on five minutes' notice when the movie studio next door was filming, the MSU Pre-con team was also competing against the pros from PCL, who had actually done the work -- and who were judging the competition.

"That was the most intimidating thing," said Hutten, a civil engineering major and the only team member not in MSU's construction engineering technology program. "They've actually built it."

In 16 hours, the team put together a 20-minute presentation for the PCL judges, complete with analysis, estimates, reports and visual aids. Hutten and the others were happy to see that their work matched the real life "solution" fairly closely -- even though, as juniors, they had not covered some of the relevant material in their classes.

"Reno was a culmination of all the classes we've taken the past three years," Hutten said. "Plus, I think we worked really well together as a team."

The Pre-con team, along with MSU's six other teams, spent months preparing for the competition, with the help of construction and engineering firms from across Montana, said Penny Knoll, a the coordinator of MSU's Construction Engineering Technology program and the national director of ASC Region Six.

Those other teams fared well at the competition too, Knoll said. The university's Commercial team placed third behind Colorado State and the University of Alaska. MSU's Heavy Civil team finished second to Weber State.

The Heavy Civil team has won its event three times in the past eight years -- more wins than any other regional school -- and has gone on to compete in the national tournament each time, Knoll said. Last year, the team placed second at nationals in Las Vegas.

Knoll said the university is proud of all seven teams that competed this year and that the competition gives students a chance to practice some of the skills they'll use in their engineering careers.

"It really gives them a piece of what they're studying so hard to become," she said. "It reinforces what we're teaching and what the industry will expect of them."

Related Stories

"MSU students win second in national NASA design competition," Sept. 13, 2006 --

"MSU transportation engineering team wins regional competition," June 8, 2004 --

"Engineers turn hot dogs into scholarships," Feb. 11, 2004 --

Contact: Michael Becker at 406-994-5140 or