By  Courtney Clayton
six students with their prize check from the competition
Six UVA undergraduates pose with prize from student ASC competition. Contributed photo.

A joint team of six University of Virginia students from the School of Engineering and Applied Science and the School of Architecture won second place at the 2023 Associated Schools of Construction (ASC) Student Competition. The team competed in the Southeast region in the “preconstruction” category  Nov. 8-9 Nov. 8-9 in Atlanta. 

The ASC is a professional association for construction educators and industry practitioners, promoting excellence in curricula, teaching, research and service. The association’s annual competitions challenge student teams in categories such as preconstruction services, design-build, commercial construction and heavy civil construction, applying academic knowledge to real-world scenarios. 

In their first appearance at the competition, the UVA team placed second in the pre-construction category, only one point behind the leading team. While the students received a prize of $1,000 from construction company sponsor Brasfield & Gorrie, participation in competitions like ASC’s can help students gain invaluable hands-on learning as a part of the construction engineering and management concentration for their degrees. 

The UVA team of undergraduate students, dubbed Cavalier Construction, included civil engineering undergraduate students Coleman Boatwright, Alexander Lindsay and Finn Kelleher and architecture students Andy Packwood, Keely Holt and Sean Thiel. 

The team is grateful for generous support from the Jefferson Trust, which made their trip and participation possible.

Cavalier Construction received a problem statement created by Brasfield & Gorrie. The exercise required participants to create a schematic budget for a fictitious office building project awarded to the firm. Teams submitted a lengthy list of deliverables, including plans for site logistics, lifting materials, and job staffing, and a complete project estimate and schedule. Each team also had to prepare a presentation for the judges, in the form of an internal project review, and take part in a Q&A session. 

“This experience not only hones students’ technical skills but also fosters teamwork, problem-solving and effective communication — crucial attributes for future success in the construction industry,” said assistant professor Diana Franco Duran, the team’s faculty advisor.

The Cavalier Construction team also submitted a comprehensive report analyzing the project. The document included a review of similar builds, an in-depth estimate of costs and breakdowns of subcontractor quotes. Their materials also highlighted a detailed timeline and a logistics analysis covering excavation, structure, safety, and quality control and assurance. 

“I am honored to witness the growth and achievements of the Cavalier Construction team. Their work reflects the excellence that can be achieved through collaborative efforts and experiential learning opportunities,” Duran said.

In addition to Duran, engineering school lecturer Matt O’Malley and civil engineering Ph.D. student David Gutierrez acted as coaches. Gutierrez also secured funding to support Cavalier Construction’s participation in the competition from the Jefferson Trust.  

To win a spot on the UVA team, students first participated in an internal competition where they learned from expert members of UVA Engineering’s Industry Consortium. The consortium members – Gilbane, Hourigan, Whiting-Turner, Skanska, Barton Malow and Clark – supported the students as workshop facilitators, mentors and judges.  

“The idea was to think outside the box and assemble the team through a competition instead of appointments via professors,” Gutierrez said. “The project benefitted undergraduate and graduate students, the Civil and Environmental Engineering department, the School of Architecture, and strengthened the bonds with the consortium.”

The Industry Consortium was developed along with the construction engineering and management concentration to better prepare students for the job market by expanding course offerings, increasing exposure to the latest construction engineering and management technology, bringing more practicing professionals into classrooms, connecting students with job opportunities, and creating opportunities for training students for construction competitions.

“It was a fun way of learning a lot in a short period of time!” Gutierrez said. “Now the students will get the opportunity to pass on their experience to the 2024 competition participants.”

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