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Ohio State students win national construction systems management competition

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Courtesy of Associated Builders and Contractors

Courtesy of Associated Builders and Contractors

The building and plans they put together are fictitious, but the works and rewards were real. National acclaim, job opportunities and recognition for their hard work are ahead for the six members of the Ohio State Student Construction Systems Management Competition Team.

The team won the grand prize at the Associated Builders and Contractors National Construction Management Competition May 3 in Birmingham, Ala. The competition drew teams from 18 colleges across the country, but OSU’s team won, even though it was only OSU’s fifth time competing.

“The fact that we came in came in first place goes to show that our major is in the right way,” said Todd Heitkamp, the team’s head of safety and a third-year in construction systems management.

The competition began in February as the competing colleges formed teams. OSU’s team captain was Derek Goettemoeller, a third-year in construction systems management, president of the OSU Construction Systems Management Club and an alternate in last year’s competition.

Goettemoeller and club advisers Mac Ware and Alex Belkofer chose the remaining team members from a pool of applicants. Heitkamp and Goettemoeller were joined by fourth-year students Shane Mouser and Trevor Bunevich, and alternate members Andy Gest, a second-year, and fifth-year Jeremy Severs, all studying construction systems management.

“What was interesting was that none of the students really knew each other before the competition,” Belkofer said. “They’re all very good friends now, worked very closely together for three months. Lots of all-nighters. They worked weekends, worked tirelessly to make this competition work.”

Bunevich, the team’s senior estimator, said in an email that hundreds of hours went into the work.

“In April alone, we had spent approximately 240 combined hours per week in the lab putting the final touches on the documents. We all had an unhealthy share of all-nighters, coffee and energy shots. Keep in mind this was in addition to regular schoolwork and preparing for finals,” Bunevich said.

Goettemoeller also attested to the team’s bonding while working.

“We called the Agricultural Engineering Building computer lab our ‘lake house’ because we spent so much time there,” said Goettemoeller.

The team, working under the auspices of the fictional “Carmen Construction Company,” planned the construction of a new chapel at St. Dominic Hospital in Jackson, Miss., as did the other colleges’ teams.

In the months leading up to the competition, teams assembled a project binder containing project cost estimates, safety procedures and schedules. During this time, the OSU team also raised more than $10,000 to fund its trip to the competition in Birmingham, Ala.

At the competition, teams revised their plans in response to “curve balls” from the judges, including adding Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification without increasing total cost.

Mouser, the group’s project manager, said that the competition is even more intense than the work leading up to it.

“It’s really fast-paced. You only have six hours to take all this new information and practically redo most of what you spent the last 10 weeks doing,” Mouser said. “When we found out that we made it to the final group, we had one night to change our presentation and tailor it towards the changes that we made that day.”

Bunevich said that particular day was the most intense.

“We did not eat breakfast or lunch that day,” Bunevich said. “I truly feel our presentation had the most character, enthusiasm, and passion of any team. Once we were finished, it was just a waiting game, waiting to hear the judges’ decisions Friday morning.”

OSU placed second in estimating, first in project management and scheduling and took the grand prize for overall work.

“I feel like hard work pays off. A lot of late hours in the computer lab – it was very satisfying,” Mouser said. “Our team was hard-working. Everyone showed up when they were supposed to, and nobody complained about having to work too long.”

Mouser added that the experience was crucial as a student.

“It’s important for students to be involved in things like this. I think it’s very important to get these kind of experiences as any kind of student, no matter what major you’re in, because it gives you a lot of real-life experience of how things are going to be, gives you a lot of exposure,” Mouser said.

Ware agreed that the project is an important experience.

“It elevates the awareness and the reputation of the construction systems management program,” Ware said. “Compared to some of the other programs on campus, the construction systems management program is relatively new.”

OSU’s construction systems management program grew out of the agricultural engineering program in the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Engineering. The program teaches construction safety, contract, scheduling and estimating skills that Ware said aren’t present in architecture or engineering degrees.

“It’s just in the last three years that the program has what’s called a tag degree, so that the diploma that students get says ‘construction systems management.’ A few years ago, it actually said ‘agricultural systems management,'” Ware said.

Some of the students on the team don’t think the program’s newness has hindered them at all, though.

“A lot of Columbus-area contractors and employers know about the competition, and know that we won,” Goettemoeller said. “It’s a lot of recognition.”

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