Student teams heads to national competition with familiar substitute advisor

Calendar Icon Feb 12, 2016      Person Bust Icon By Karl Vogel     RSS Feed  RSS  -  Submit a Story

Tim Wentz, associate professor of construction management
Tim Wentz, associate professor of construction management
When a team of UNL construction management students takes the stage in the finals of a prestigious national competition, it will do so with a substitute for its faculty advisor.

But Tim Wentz, associate professor of construction management, is confident that his team will be in good hands when it presents its project proposal in Orlando, Florida, at the student competition of the Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA), which begins March 22.

“Regrettably, I won’t be there to see their performance, so I have recruited my son (Blake),” said Wentz, who is busy this school year as the president-elect of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE).

“He’s a department head at Milwaukee School of Engineering and his teams have won this competition twice in the last five years. His team didn’t make the final four this year, so he has the time and the ability. He’s a proud UNL graduate, and he’s happy to fly the red ‘N’ of Nebraska.”

Made up of members of UNL’s Mechanical-Electrical Specialty Contracting (MESC) student chapter, the team – Peter Niechwiadowicz (project executive), Tim Drake (safety supervisor), Kevin McIntyre (project manager), Rose Gensichen (LEED design consultant), Phillip Rasmussen (project superintendent) and Adam Crnkovich (chief estimator) – is seeking UNL’s first victory in this competition since 2006.

Work on the project began in October, when the MCAA released the specifics– a proposal for construction of the Hartford House Apartments, a high-rise residential building in San Jose, California.

“This covers everything from schedules to scope of work to the estimates, safety plans. It’s the whole gamut of construction management curriculum,” Wentz said. “This proposal, this competition is put together by practicing contractors, so they make it as real-life as you can make it, and they expect professional work to be submitted.”

The team had close to 60 days to complete its proposal and submit it by December 15. A month later, the UNL team was one of four chosen for the final four. That gives the team another nine weeks to prepare for the finals.

Wentz said the process of this competition gives students real-world experience by replicating the way proposals are typically handled, with one big exception.

“The time frame would be much more accelerated in industry,” Wentz said. “They’re really cutting the students quite a bit of slack to give them that much time. Now they’ve made the short list, which is typical, except that most proposals in industry would have two to three weeks at the most to put together the proposal and show up to give your demonstration.

“For most of them, this is their first honest-to-goodness proposal. That’s what makes this competition so valuable – it’s a learning opportunity that’s difficult to replicate inside the class.”

To prepare the UNL students for their time on the big stage, Wentz has called on the membership of two professional groups that sponsor the MESC student chapter – the MCAA of Omaha chapter and the Nebraska chapter of ASHRAE – to help. In the next few weeks, the team will present its proposal to those groups and get feedback from industry professionals.

“That’s why we’re doing these mocks,” Wentz said. “The thing that really separates these final four teams – all four of them are going to be really good – is the question and answer from the judges. The more times they can give their presentation, the more times they will get Q and A’s from practicing professionals that are just like they’re going to get in Orlando, the better.”

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