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          4 min read

          The Future is Bright – Experiencing the ASC Student Competition

          Attending the 2023 Associated Schools of Construction (ASC) Region 6 & 7 Student Competition and Construction Management Conference in early February was an inspiring experience for me, and I want to share some highlights of the event and reflect on why it is important to our industry. I arrived to the Nugget Casino Resort in Sparks, Nevada as attendees were getting seated for the welcome dinner. Over 200 teams of construction students gathered in one room - the energy was vibrant. As school logos flashed across the screens, the students cheered, and maybe booed their rivals a little bit- this is a competition after all! Nine buffet lines were swarmed by students called by table number - clearly, this is a well-organized event. The Northwest, West and Southwest regions of CSI (Construction Specification Institute) provided a sponsorship for this event and sent representatives from several chapters to find out how CSI can better support the C of AEC. Conspectus is also always interested to create more connections with Contractors in order to bridge the gaps we know about and learn about the ones we haven't yet considered. Asking questions and getting feedback is important and supports both CSI's and Conspectus's goals of greater transparency and collaboration.

          The students spent all day Thursday in their competition rooms, developing solutions to problems provided by Contractor 'problem sponsors', typically situations taken from real world projects. We had a few faculty stop by the CSI booth for information about the PDEP (Project Delivery Education Program), which is basically CDT (Construction Document Technologist) study courses modified for teaching at universities or community colleges. Sheryl Dodd-Hansen teaches PDEP at University of New Mexico and Michael Young teaches it at a community college in Denver.

          At the faculty lunch, I spoke with faculty from University of New Mexico about their curriculum. I asked if there was any overlap between the construction and architectural programs. The professors indicated some structural courses taught in the engineering department used to overlap, but no longer did. I commented on this unfortunate disconnect and wished there was a similar event for architecture students which simulated real world activities the way the ASC student competition does.

          Thursday evening, an industry happy hour and dinner took place in the ballroom. Allison Scott with Autodesk gave a keynote urging attendees to embrace the technology generation. Defining 'digital natives' as those who used the internet before the age of 18; these emerging professionals may lack experience, but their tech knowledge can present opportunities for improving how we work.

          Emerging professionals are possibly the best tool in your toolbox;
          let them bring new skills to the team.

          On Friday, the students presented their solutions to a panel of people from the Contractor and guests. I attended the following presentations:

          • USC in the Region 7 Commercial category: They were given project drawings and20230210_130121 specs to create and present an estimate and schedule. The team provided detailed information and answered questions as if they were proposing to a client.
          • Colorado Mesa in the Region 6 Heavy Civil category: The team was given site options for a self-performed job which the contractor also owned. They had to select which site, layout the work area, and present to the internal leadership team for approval. This team earns extra credit from my perspective. They started out having all of us stand up and stretch our legs after the judging panel had been hearing teams all morning. It provided a nice touch of awareness of their audience and gave the presenters a moment to focus and breathe, giving them a more relaxed and natural start.
          • University of Washington in the Integrated Project category: This presentation simulated an Owner/Contractor meeting. The team had to provide a construction overview and answer questions related to their decisions and the reasons certain choices were made.
          • Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) category recap from Webcor Builders: The recaps allow the problem sponsors to outline what info they were looking for in the solutions and show them how they handled the problems in the real world. They take the time to explain the reasons behind the decisions made, pointing out items that could, or did in fact, cause problems, related to constructability, sequencing, etc. The VDC problem was actually 8 questions, one related to 3D modeling and clash detection, one to create a mockup schedule. They had a physical mockup in the room, showing an open trench for a shoring and safety related question. They included a certain form for the teams to fill out which most had not seen before. This item was not scored, but was provided as an example to get the students familiar with the document. The presenters from the Contractor also shared a few comments about items that went unnoticed in the solution answers.

          After the presentations, there were hospitality suites hosted by the contractors throughout20230210_152849 the convention area; most had food, drink, and games, and those ever-important conversations that serve as soft interviews - an early introduction to the valuable lesson of networking and the amount of business done in AEC via after-hours socializing. I had an excellent conversation with Mike Young, CSI treasurer, and learned a few new things about bagpipes!


          On Saturday morning, a fresh layer of snow covered the ground and the job fair was buzzing with students and contractors, many in matching shirts. Several CSI representatives talked to the Contractors at their booths to let them know about what CSI has to offer, including the CDT and other certifications, as well as other education and networking opportunities. A gentleman from Midstate Construction, who also teaches at his local community college, had a great idea for establishing standard colors for each discipline for pdf markups to help Contractors more easily identify who made comments.

          We have CAD, BIM, and spec standards; but do markup standards exist yet?
          Please share in the comments if you know of any current guidelines.

          The open category awards wrapped up the event, and again, the energy was incredible! The problem sponsors had unique awards to present and expressed their gratitude for the hard work of the teams - a record number for many of the categories. Cal Poly's green shirts crossed the stage many times and proud faculty followed students to waiting photographers at the side of the room, capturing team pictures.


          The ASC student competition was an incredible event; very well organized and providing students with real world problems and exposure to numerous learning and teamwork opportunities. The amount of time and resources the Contractors expend on this event as problem sponsors is immense. The judging teams were typically 4-6 people, in addition to the talent acquisition team members at the job fair. The dedication to the future of their industry is admirable and should be celebrated along with the hard work of the students and faculty! Thank you to all who planned, sponsored, competed, and attended this event. Thank you to the Northwest, West, and Southwest regions of CSI and the CSI members from 8 different chapters who took time out of their work schedule to play a part in this event. The lessons provided and connections made or enhanced are sure to have a continuing ripple effect for everyone involved.

          Summing up what I heard that Contractors want? It sounded very similar to the aims of CSI and Conspectus for greater transparency and collaboration; both of which require better communication.

          Have the conversations, ask the questions, get feedback, improve, and repeat.

          We have much to learn from each other; we can do more as a team and better on our projects when everyone brings their unique perspective to table. We will be back for more next year!



          2023_03_07 Blog ASC Fast Facts Friday 2023