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UALR student attends construction competition in Dallas

Nick Butterfield of Ward, observer, Eric Holloway, Coach Larry Blackmon , Justin Elbert, Ryan Burton. Angie Grubb, Josh Collins, Roland Csege. (Submitted photo)
Nick Butterfield of Ward, observer, Eric Holloway, Coach Larry Blackmon , Justin Elbert, Ryan Burton. Angie Grubb, Josh Collins, Roland Csege. (Submitted photo)

University of Arkansas at Little Rock student Nicholas Butterfield of Ward attended the 2014 Associated Schools of Construction and TEXO International Student Competition, held in Dallas Feb. 22-25.

Butterfield was joined by six other students, Angie Makita, Eric Holloway, Josh Collins, Roland Csege, Ryan Burton, and Justin Elbert, who competed in the Heavy Civil Division and won.

Led by Faculty Coach Larry Blackmon, they represented the UALR Department of Construction Management and Civil and Construction Engineering in the competition.

Elbert was also recognized as one of the best presenters for the Heavy Civil Division, which consisted of eight teams competing from schools from across a four-state region.

“The Heavy Civil competition is as close as to the real world as contractors can get without the students actually building the project,” said Michael Tramel, department chair and professor of Construction Management & Civil & Construction Engineering.

The competition involved a 16-hour estimating and bidding portion, with competitors confined to a room with no outside contact, followed by travel to the competition for presentation to the judges.

Burton, now in his third year of competition overall and his second as a member of the heavy civil team, said one of the challenges is having such a short time to analyze a complex project and determining the best way to get a good price.

“Then, you have to come up with a presentation that defends your price,” he said.

“You go into it knowing that you haven’t gotten all the details on the problem that the sponsor knows are there, but you have to tell them why your price makes the best sense.”

Student competitors do not discover the winner until the school’s name is announced at the awards banquet.

“When the presenters announced third and second place winners, I had butterflies in my stomach,” Burton said. “When they announced UALR for first, I was just ecstatic. I was pumped. It felt really awesome to have done all of that work and have it validated.”

The students’ construction challenge was provided and judged by personnel from Austin Bridge & Road Construction Co. The assignment focused on a 2.5-mile stretch along I-30.

Their work involved changing the grades of both I-30 and FM-551, where the two roads intersect and there is a two-lane bridge overpass.

The project’s goal upon completion was an interstate overpass in both directions. The scope involved demolishing the existing bridge and building two new bridges without interrupting traffic flow on I-30.

The problem also only allowed 60 days of closure for the highway, which made the schedule critical.

The team’s bid for the project was $31.5 million, and the duration of the project was 504 working days. The actual bid for the project that Austin Bridge & Road submitted was $33 million.

UALR’s bid was the closest to the real bid for about the sixth consecutive year.

“Larry Blackmon did an excellent job of preparing the students, and all of them are to be congratulated for an exceptional job well done,” said Tramel.

Blackmon first coached the heavy civil team in February 2008.

“Coaching a team requires you to get students prepared to fully understand and be able to work any problem given to them by the judges,” Blackmon said.

“I use the classes I teach to equip them with skills they need for these competitions and for what is expected of them when they enter the workforce,” he added.

Led by Tramel, UALR students Brian Choate, Jordan Epperson, McKinley Adams, Richard Fernandez, Richard Ussery, Sarah Brown, and Shawn Moix also entered competition in the Commercial Building Division, which consisted of 11 teams.

Each student was assigned part of the problem. The students had to prepare a total project cost estimate, develop a project schedule, answer questions dealing with contract and specification issues, and fill out and submit a complete bid package.

The UALR Heavy Civil Division team’s travel expenses were supported by the Highway Division of the Arkansas Associated General Contractors, and their shirts were donated by Nabholz Construction Co.

VCC Inc. of Little Rock sponsored the commercial division team, providing for their travel and shirts.

In addition to UALR, students from John Brown University, Oklahoma State University, Texas A&M, Texas A&M Commerce, Texas Tech, University of Louisiana at Monroe, and the University of North Texas were represented in the close Heavy Civil competition.

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