REAL PEOPLE

LHS grad a part of award-winning student team

By Josh Benham, The La Grande Observer, @lgoBenham

About the series

Real People stories are about people volunteering, doing good deeds, achieving, performing, enjoying the outdoors ... making the most of life in Union and Wallowa counties. Do you have a story idea or photo for this feature? Email acutler@lagrandeobserver.com .

“Before they even finished ‘University’ I had jumped out of my chair,” Lankford said.

The 2012 La Grande High School graduate was part of the BSU Commercial Team that was awarded first place in the Region 6 commercial category at the 30th annual Associated Schools of Construction Student Competition Feb. 8-11 in Reno, Nevada. Lankford, a construction management major, was one of 37 students the BSU Construction Management department took to the competition.

In all, more than 1,300 students competed on 182 teams from 45 universities in 16 states, including Arizona State, UCLA, Florida, Oregon State, Stanford and Washington.

At the ASCSC competition, teams meet with professionals from the construction industry and are presented with problem statements and accompanying plans and specifications of actual construction projects that contractors developed. The teams then have about 15 hours to develop and prepare solutions, such as estimates, project schedules and sustainability plans, and present their project to a panel of judges.

Lankford said Region 6 is composed of eight Western states, and there were 14 teams in the commercial division. BSU sent four other teams that competed in other divisions like heavy shovel and design build, but Lankford and the commercial team had the best showing.

“Of those five teams, the commercial division was the only one that placed,” he said.

Lankford said last fall, BSU sent information out to all engineering and construction management students to see if they’d be interested.

“How my professors introduced it (was) ‘This is as close to real life as you’re going to get,’” Lankford said.

In October, students started meeting initially to plan, and Lankford said there were 11 people at first. That number was weeded down to the seven-student team after people dropped out — Lankford, Samuel Reading, Hank Davis, Trent Drabek, Jorgen Vaage and Pat Holt, with Perrin Romney as an alternate.

Through the process of elimination, Boise State University’s Logan Lankford saw the chances of his team winning improve by the minute.

And before presenters could even finish announcing his school’s name, he was in celebration mode for a well-earned victory.

The group prepared for Reno by going to the office of the team’s sponsor, Andersen Construction, and doing three rounds of all-day practice sessions of hypothetical construction projects to simulate the competition.

After arriving the night before in Reno, Lankford said the team had to arrive by 6 a.m. the next day, where Mortenson Construction presented the commercial team with the project.

They received the project of constructing an industrial building in Fort Collins, Colorado, and the team set out to get a plan in motion on how to tackle the project. Lankford was the superintendent of the project, which meant he was in charge of aspects like site logistics, and ensuring the job site was efficient as possible and the construction was being done the way the owner wanted.

“So what (the actual contractor) did in three months, we had to do from 6 (a.m.) to 9:30 p.m.,” Lankford said.

To continue the real-life simulation, Lankford said, they were presented with curveballs during information sessions every four hours. Those included the owner deciding to move a wall during the project, and installing a 15,000-pound rock on the patio to serve as a fountain.

“You don’t know what’s going to happen in the construction industry,” he said. “Basically, they said these are things that happened on the project.”

Lankford’s team turned in the physical project plan at 9:20 p.m., but had to present the project verbally the next day to the constructors who worked on the actual project, laying out every component, including safety and construction issues, employee parking and delivery routes. At a debriefing later that night, judges/professionals showed teams how they actually did the projects.

The BSU team raised the most concerns that the professionals actually had to address, and their estimate was $18.7 million to complete, nearly identical to the actual estimate of $18.75 million.

“Our team started looking around like, ‘We have a good chance,’” Lankford said.

When it came time for the awards, Lankford said, the other teams that had performed well began receiving awards for third- and second-place, and he knew before the final announcement the BSU team had won.

“It was a great experience,” he said.

He said numerous professionals, including Andersen Construction, swarmed the BSU team to give them business cards and kudos.

“To hear compliments from people in the industry was just awesome,” Lankford said.

He said a key was simply great teamwork.

“We were all equal (with) responsibilities, and everybody meshed well,” he said.

The BSU senior is also employed by CM Company in Boise, which is the general contractor for the La Grande School District’s bond project, which includes the LHS Career Technical Education building and the new Central Elementary School construction. Lankford worked at the sites last summer and said he’s currently an office intern.

He said he’s graduating in December, and will be interning with a company in Spokane Valley. He said he’s had several companies request him to stay in touch until he graduates.

“I’m going to see where it takes me,” he said. “(The competition) is definitely going to prepare me for the real world. Construction is booming, and I picked a field I really enjoy.”

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