This year, Swinerton Builders San Diego was able to capitalize on an opportunity to coach a team of San Diego State University (SDSU) students for the Associated Schools of Construction (ASC) Reno Competition in February. We coached a team of six students and three alternates in the Region VIII Mixed-Use project category. Although residential in nature, the projects were large, complex, and multi-story, each had a unique mixed-use component. As described in the problem statement, students experienced “A Day in the Life of a Project Engineer,” and the problem attempted to mirror the actual responsibilities of a project engineer on a jobsite.
Each official team consisted of six students who competed the day of the competition and were each responsible for a specific topic. The team had a full day to assemble their project deliverables and work on each specific assignment and then worked through the night on their oral presentation. Instead of a formal presentation in which team members participate as members of a mock construction company, our team shared solutions as if they were project engineers and the judges were members of the upper management team.
The problem assessed the team’s understanding of key responsibilities of project engineers in our industry, including problem solving, written and verbal communication skills, estimating, scheduling, plan reading, bid analysis, LEED®, site logistics, and quantity take-offs. In preparation, our team met every Tuesday morning from 6:00-7:30 a.m. starting in September 2011 at SDSU to train on all of the different components of the competition. With the help of our resident experts in the San Diego division, we were able to cover not only the basic aspects of the competition but also other key elements of successful projects which helped set our team apart from the rest of the competition.
One of our San Diego Superintendents, Greg McFaul, spent time training the students both as a team and individually on creating schedules and site logistics plans. Senior Estimator Jim Lewis prepared the team on the estimating process, from quantity take-offs and value engineering to subcontractor bid analysis and filling out abstracts. We were also fortunate enough to have Jef Farrell come in to coach the team on project risk analysis and the “10 Keys to a Successful Project!” We also completed three full-day mock-problems at the local AGC chapter and our San Diego office over the course of the training, during which we noticed a drastic improvement in the team and their knowledge base from where we started.
Coaching this team of students has been a great experience. It was inspiring to go to SDSU each Tuesday morning and see a group of students so eager and excited to learn about what we do on a daily basis. Additionally, it is comforting to know that we have such great talent ready to follow in our footsteps and lead the construction industry into the future. We hope to continue to build on this experience and coach more Reno Competition teams in the coming years. We are incredibly proud of the effort our team has put forth and we want to send a big thank you to all of those in the San Diego division who gave their time to help the team!