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Penn College Places Second in National Builders’ Competition


Few in Hawaii even knew where Pennsylvania College of Technology is, and even fewer expected much out of a first-time entry from a far-from-home institution. But a four-man team of the College’s Construction Management students placed second overall in therecent Associated Builders and Contractors Inc. national convention in Honolulu one pointshy of last year’s returning champion.

“I think everyone was shocked that we did so well our first time out, including the team members,” said Brandon L. Lebo of Boiling Springs. “Since Penn College has never sent ateam to the competition before, we really weren’t sure what to expect, and we knew wewere up against some tough universities.”

Lebo was joined by three others on the team Jonathan W. Elliott of State College, Matthew R. Sarver of Somerset, and Brett D. Morley of Mechanicsburg as well as adviser Wayne R. Sheppard, instructor of building construction technology and management. Three others (two students and an alumnus) acted as a support team.

The Feb. 27-28 competition actually began two weeks earlier, when the team received a packet of information, a set of drawings and a contractor’s challenge: convert a 24-story hotel on Oahu into condominiums.

“Our students put in a ton of time 100 to 120 hours at least, in addition to their normal classes,” Sheppard said. “They had to take the data provided and develop a full estimate, a project schedule, a project-management plan and a safety plan.”

One of only two teams from the Northeast (the other was Columbia University), Penn College was among 19 total entries in the competition.

But overcoming its underdog status wasn’t the only obstacle; the team first needed to findan industry sponsor to subsidize much of its travel expenses. (David Remick and theCentral Pennsylvania Chapter of the ABC stepped up with partial funding and moral support,Sheppard said.)

Then there was the first day in Hawaii, making sure the computers and printer survived theflight . . . and that no data was lost in the airport scanner. There was the exhaustion from across-country trip. And there was the bombshell at breakfast that Friday: Typical of areal-life construction scenario, the team was given six hours to accommodate a last-minutearchitectural change, modifying its various plans and justifying any additional expense.

“It was quite a stressful day,” Sheppard said. “And it was made even more so by theNational Craft Competition in the same room.”

While team members huddled around laptops, crunching numbers and bruising brain cells, students in plumbing, masonry and other trades were noisily competing nearby in theirportion of the conference.

“The environment added to the test.” he said. “These were some of the brightest construction managers of the future, and to see them trying to deal with stress, it was as close to a real situation as could be designed.”

Penn College ultimately finished second in Project Management/Scheduling (behind Colorado State University) and second only to the University of Central Florida in the Safety category.

Once the group returned home, it also learned that it placed second in the overall competition only one point behind back-to-back champion Colorado State.

“The incredible performance of these students in a real-world project-management situation is a testament to the fine colleges and universities they represent,” said Carole L. Bionda, ABC’s 2004 national chair. “This competition allowed students to learn about teamwork and about working well under pressure.”

The late hours and hard work paid off, and Lebo said the shock of the first award quickly turned to smiles when Penn College’s name was announced the second time.

“The experience taught me that, no matter the college or university that we compete against, if you get a great group of individuals like the team we took to Hawaii, anything is possible,” Sarver added. “It is just a great tribute to our construction faculty, instructing us to achieve the highest goals within the industry.”

The three support-team members Joseph M. Delibertis of Douglassville, Brian W. Hohenshilt of York, and Justin D. Humes of Jamison (a 2003 construction management graduate) also did their part to spread Penn College’s fame at the conference. In addition to dispensing information at the local chapter’s booth, they sold items from the College Store that they bought with $200 of their own money.

“They made back their investment,” Sheppard said, “and a lot of people left with Penn College hats, shirts and key chains. Our name really got out there!”

In addition to the aforementioned colleges and universities, others competing in this year’s event were: Auburn University; Bemidji State University; Brigham Young University; Clemson University; Louisiana State University; Minnesota State University, Mankato; Oklahoma State University at Okmulgee; Purdue University; Texas A&M University; University of Arkansas at Little Rock; University of Cincinnati; University of Houston; University of Southern Mississippi; University of Wisconsin, Stout; and Virginia Tech.

Associated Builders and Contractors is a national association representing 23,000 merit shop construction and construction-related firms in 80 chapters across the United States. For more information, visit ABC online .

To learn more about construction-related majors at Penn College, call (570) 327-4513 or visit on the Web.

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