UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering

Structural engineering students showcase construction engineering skills

San Diego, Calif., Feb. 12, 2020 -- Structural engineering undergraduate students put their construction engineering skills to the test at the Associated Schools of Construction Region 6 and 7 competition in Reno, Nevada from February 5-8. The group of 14 students competed in two categories this year: Heavy Civil, sponsored by Granite Construction; and Design-Build, sponsored by Swinerton Builders.

This is the second year UC San Diego students participated in the Heavy Civil challenge, but the first time they competed in the Design-Build Challenge, both of which are structured like hackathons.

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Students on the Heavy Civil team, with John McCartney (left), professor and chair of the Department of Structural Engineering, and the faculty mentor for the competition. 

“We are given a set of heavy civil project plans and specifications,” said Skye Yang, a structural engineering student and captain of the Heavy Civil project team. “Without internet access, in the duration of 15+ hours, we are required to prepare a bid package that details the price breakdown for the whole project. Then, we present our bid to a panel of judges.”

Yang said the students trained with estimators from Flatiron Construction for the past seven months to ramp up their skills.  

“We learned about the bidding process of a construction project, topics ranging from plan reading, understanding how something is built, to preparing a construction schedule. We also learned how to price each construction activity.”

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The Design-Build team with Professor McCartney. 

Ammar Salem, a structural engineering student and captain of the Design-Build team, said his team of six students plus two alternates was trained by Clark Construction starting in July, meeting once a week at 5am!

“We learned all about the design-build contract process and the role the general contractor has in making sure the project is successful,” he said. “We used UC San Diego's new college as a real-life example of how the design-build process works.”

Come competition time in Reno, the Design-Build team was tasked with completing a request for proposal.

“In 15 hours we were asked to complete a schedule of construction, cost estimate, schematic design, multiple narratives detailing how we would handle certain circumstances, and countless other things,” Salem said. “We were up against 14 other schools on the west coast, and the goal is to win the project, meaning that the judges are comparing all of the schools as if they are separate companies and they are trying to see who should get the job, like in a real life scenario.”

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The Design-Build team with the judges during their presentation.

In addition to learning the skills necessary to be a construction management professional, Yang said many of the students also enjoyed getting to network and learn from professionals and practice their interview skills.

“The competition event itself gave students from both of our teams a lot of exposure to construction industry professionals,” she said. “Many of us were offered interviews and internships from the competition. The process of preparing for the competition was also very beneficial to everyone from both teams-- back at UC San Diego, having an understanding of the construction process really helped us to better visualize the problems we were solving in class, and having this knowledge also gives us a head start when we take on internships positions during the summer."

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