Winners announced for first ever "Construction Challenge"

AEM teen program focuses attention on construction careers

News AEM March 18, 2008
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An Oklahoma team has won the first ever Construction Challenge held at the recently concluded CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2008 trade show in Las Vegas. Teams from Illinois, New Jersey, Ohio and Texas also took home top honors in the teen competition, which was initiated by the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM).

More than 50 student teams competed at the event, held March 11-13, 2008, at the Las Vegas Convention Center. The teams built pieces of “construction equipment,” debated other teams on infrastructure issues and created interactive educational products to help spread the word about construction careers and equipment.

First place went to a team from Perry High School in Perry, Okla. Team members were Amy Bieberdorf, Kelsey Cave, Evan Williams, Cassandra Bratcher, Daniel Cross, Dakota Johnson and Trevor Kukuk.

The group’s teamwork during the Road Warrior challenge–with self-built “construction equipment”–impressed judges, competitors and onlookers. Each team member won a $2,000 scholarship and a computer.

“Lots of hard work paid off,” team member Evan Williams said.

“We learned time management and problem-solving skills, and we logged lots of hours after school to get ready,” added team member Kelsey Cave.

The team’s manager, technical education teacher Jeff Zagar, said, “We built the whole [Road Warrior] course at school so the team could walk in feeling confident and prepared.”

A total of seven teams won titles and prizes. The team taking 3rd Place Overall, the only all-girls team in the competition, also won 1st place in two of the three challenges, Dialogue and Product Development. Their product, a coloring book for young girls, will now be used by the construction industry as an educational tool to introduce more young people to careers in construction.

The construction industry will create more than 1 million new jobs by 2012, but currently there are not enough skilled workers to fill all the jobs. AEM, in partnership with Destination ImagiNation Inc., initiated the Construction Challenge specifically to engage the interest of teens in careers in the industry through a hands-on, educational experience. The Construction Challenge offered a chance for students, teachers, parents and community leaders to learn more about this growing industry. They also learned about the industry’s need for skilled employees to deal with infrastructure problems of crumbling bridges, overcrowded roadways and aging water and wastewater systems.

“The response that these students have gotten is better than we dreamed of when we started this project 17 months ago,” said Al Cervero, senior vice president at AEM. “Not only were CONEXPO-CON/AGG attendees checking out the challenges, they were talking about the need to increase awareness of the industry and the great jobs that are available. They were stunned by the creativity and knowledge on display this week by all of the teams.”

The students competed in three challenges:

  • Infrastructure Dialogue (counted for 30% of overall): Teams researched infrastructure issues (such as drinking water systems, road and highway systems and bridges), and were randomly assigned to answer a policy-related question on one of these topics. They worked with another team to present their answers and then took questions on the topic from the panel of judges and from the audience.
  • Equipment & Careers (30%): Teams researched, designed and developed an interactive educational resource or product to help teach specific audiences about construction careers and equipment. Teams identified a target audience, designed their product, tested and revised it before traveling to the finals.
  • Road Warrior (40%): Teams built one or more equipment devices used during this challenge. First, two teams worked together to finish a partially completed infrastructure that included a road, a bridge and a pipeline. Once completed, the collaborating teams were pitted against each other to move the most gravel across their newly-completed infrastructure, using their team-built equipment.
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