One of the most important investments we can make is in the development of students that show an interest in our industry. Along with various speaking engagements and teaching opportunities at select universities throughout the school year, Southland participates in the annual Associated Schools of Construction (ASC) Region 6 & 7 Competition held in Sparks, Nevada.Through a coalition of peers, we sponsor the competitive Mechanical Problem at the competition.

Personally, this is one of the highlights of my year. Thousands of construction management students converge for a spirited competition specifically tailored to reflect various real-world issues over a wide range of construction categories. The student teams are given a real world project in the morning and have approximately 16 hours to respond to a request for proposal with deliverables such as an estimate, schedule, and construction plan to carry out the work. Plus, to keep the situation as real to life as possible, there is always a zinger late in the game—for example, a bulletin or request for information—to keep things interesting.

Foregoing a good night’s rest, the students then spend the rest of the night preparing for an interview the following day, where a panel of judges will pose as important real-world players like an owner, project manager, and superintendent. That next morning, the student contestants present their plan for the project as well as participate in a Q&A period with by the judges.

The Southland team sat in on several different presentations including Determining Project Risk, Design Build, Integrated Project Delivery, and of course, the Open Mechanical Problem. This year’s Mechanical Problem was based on a process tool hook up project for a solar panel manufacturer.  Each of the teams that I saw present were engaged and had solid execution plans.

It is always interesting to see the way the different teams approach the challenge places before them. Seeing what these students can do with limited experience and a serious shortage of time is impressive.  The effort they expend in less than 24 hours to estimate, plan, schedule, and rehearse for the presentation is truly amazing. This is an exciting event that gathers bright, motivated students and is something we look forward to sponsoring each year.

Congratulations to Oregon State University, California State University Sacramento, and Colorado State University on their 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place finishes in the Mechanical Problem. And, congratulations to California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo on their 1st place finish in the Design Build Problem for the second year in a row.  Way to go!



  • Phill Phillips

    Vice President of Operations, Northern California

    As Vice President of Operations for Southland’s Northern California Division, Mr. Phillips is responsible for all project management staff recruiting, growth, and performance. With over 30 years of construction management experience, he ensures that all of the division’s projects are delivered with the high quality and value that clients have come to expect from Southland. Mr. Phillips is also involved with multiple associations and committees that focus on improvement within the industry, such as the Associated Schools of Construction.

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