Construction Science group awarded second-place prize in national contest

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The K-State student chapter of the Associated General Contractors of America has been named the second-best collegiate chapter in the nation.

After pulling all-nighters to finish a memorial for the tornado-ravaged town of Chapman, Kan., and rebuilding homes in New Orleans as part of an alternative spring break trip, members of the construction science organization have displayed “remarkable work” within the community, said Corey Peterson, executive vice president of the AGC of Kansas.

Focusing on professional development and leadership skills, the chapter, which meets once a week, offers construction science students an opportunity to gain real-world experience by lending their helping handiwork to members of the Manhattan community. It is this emphasis on public service that led the chapter to its national recognition in early October.

“It was pretty exciting,” said Leonel Hernandez, chapter president and senior in construction science and management. “We all worked really hard, so it’s great to get into the top three.”

Each year, the national AGC recognizes three of the most proactive student AGC chapters out of the 120 across the country in its Outstanding Student Chapter Contest. Based on an application detailing the groups’ projects and accomplishments from the previous year, the national committee makes its selections.

“The student chapters have to demonstrate a pretty deep dedication to their community to be considered for the award,” Peterson said. “I think K-State had a very ambitious year as far as community service and is an excellent example of how construction students can give back.”

In addition to its alternative spring break project, the K-State chapter worked to improve playground facilities at Lee Elementary School and teamed up with ABC’s “Extreme Home Makeover” to erect a Chapman memorial after the June 11, 2008, devastation. Acknowledging the 750 man hours the students volunteered to complete the memorial in less than two weeks, nationals also awarded the chapter with $750 to help fund future projects.

Though all of K-State’s AGC efforts were realized, chapter adviser Tom Logan said it was the students’ intensity in completing the memorial that really made them stand out.

Planning for the project began on Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2008. With the help of several K-State landscape architecture students and more than $500,000 of community-donated equipment, the group met its Tuesday, Nov. 18, deadline.

“It was pretty crazy,” Hernandez said. “When Friday came around, I didn’t know if we were going to be able to finish it in time. We had to pull some pretty late shifts to construct it all outside and on top of school. It was something that was really fast-paced, something we’ll probably never get to experience again, but it was definitely worth it.”

Often working until 1 or 2 a.m., more than 40 students constructed the memorial entirely from salvaged materials, such as recycled concrete and wood from damaged buildings, homes and trees. Logan, assistant professor of architectural engineering and construction science, said because of the time crunch, the project was unlike any the chapter had experienced before, but not unlike many professional construction jobs, especially with its community focus.

“Most large contractors feel very strongly that service is a big part the job, and that contractors should give back and provide service to communities,” Logan said. “This kind of helped get that imprinted into their minds that this is what we do.”

Peterson said the recognition and award was a “truly great achievement” for the chapter and said he expects great things from its members in the future.

“K-State should really be proud of its construction science program,” he said.

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