Construction Students Get Invaluable ‘Real-World Eye-Opener’

Life comes at you fast after graduation.

Fortunately, ASCE’s Construction Institute Student Days program helps prepare aspiring construction engineers for that transition.

The annual five-day event – held this year in late July in Arlington, Virginia – combines competition with networking, advice from professionals and real-world experience.

“It honestly was a big highlight of my college career and it really tested what I knew of construction so far and what I needed to improve,” said Elliot Idio, a civil engineering student at Virginia Tech. “As an aspiring construction professional, I know that I still have a long way to go before I’m proficient in technical construction skills like estimating, scheduling and what not, but there are soft, personal skills that I learned from this experience that I can improve on over the next year to really help me out as a professional.”

Student Days hosts around 36 college students each year, invitation-only based on applications. Six captains select teams of six to participate in the CI Heavy Civil Engineering Team Challenge Competition. The student teams must create a bid package for a real-world construction job throughout the program and then present their proposal to construction professionals.

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Civil Six for the win!! #CIStudentDays This past weekend, I was privileged enough to be able to attend the Construction Institute of ASCE Student Days! The challenge given to my team and I was a difficult one but we put in a lot of hard work and prevailed. We were tasked with developing a written and oral real-world construction project proposal that takes all conditions into account, including local laws and regulations, as well as minimized impact to traffic, surrounding residential/commercial areas, and shareholders. I am so grateful for all of the help from professionals and mentors, the learning experiences from the site visit and presentations, and new friends I received. Thank you to the YPC and Construction Institute for putting this together and giving me the experience of a lifetime! A special thank you to my amazing team Robert, Ariel, Andrea, Josh, and Philip for all their hard work and commitment that helped us win! I look forward to continuing my involvement with ASCE and CI in the future as my career continues! #ASCEMadeMe

A post shared by Nalah Williams (@ncw_22) on

Robert Sprotte, a rising junior at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, captained the winning team this year, an opportunity he relished.

“We were just super excited,” Sprotte said. “We spent the first day just getting to know each other, and I think building that base really paid off in the long run.

“Being the project manager, I was probably one of the youngest people in my group. And with a program like this, anyone here is totally capable of running the show in their own right. So my main goal was just to point things in the right direction, keeping open conversation with our team. Once we got it sorted out, what each person was going to focus on, it was really cool to see the skeletons of our outline start to fill in.”

The competition introduces and reinforces essential skills such as estimating and budgeting a project. But Student Days also highlights the importance of collaboration and communication skills.

“After participating, I feel like my overall perspective of what it means to be a civil engineer has been brought into fine focus,” said Sophie Lipomanis, a student at the University of Louisville. “Student Days showed me how working closely with other motivated engineers is a dynamic multiplied, and it inspired me to see our collective effort succeed.”

Technical tour of the Arlington Memorial Bridge
This year’s program included a technical tour of the Arlington Memorial Bridge.

This year’s program also included a technical tour of the Arlington Memorial Bridge, a team-building trip to an escape room and several sessions with construction professionals. Nalah Williams, a member of the winning Student Days team this year and a senior at the University of Texas, Arlington, appreciated the chance to talk to the young construction professionals who were in her shoes not so long ago.

“I’m a hands-on person, so I appreciate that in construction I’m doing some design and office work, but I’m also able to actually get out in the field and see what we’re working on in person,” Williams said.

“Talking to the young professionals and hearing what they’re doing, I can see that there is a path to getting my license without just sitting behind a desk.

“It was a real-world eye-opener.”

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