Earlier this week, the Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA) student chapter from the University of Missouri-Columbia presented in the Final Four Competition and St. Louis-based Integrated Facility Services received a National Safety Award at the MCAA National Convention in Phoenix, AZ. Thomas Walsh, one of the student presenters, also received a $5,000 scholarship from MCREF (Mechanical Contracting Education and Research Foundation) at the convention. All three awards, including $2,500 won by the UMC Student Chapter, were announced by E. Timothy Decker, president, C&R Mechanical, who serves as president of the Mechanical Contractors Association of Eastern Missouri (MCA-EMO), sponsor of the student chapter.
The Final Four presentation session, held March 4, featured basketball legend Magic Johnson, current president of basketball operations for the LA Lakers, as the keynote presenter, speaking on “Imagine.” The popular rock band, Imagine Dragons, also performed Tuesday evening at the MCAA19 National Convention.
IFS, with offices in St. Louis and Columbia, MO, was recognized with an MCAA national safety award in Category 3 (250,000-400,000 man hours) for improvements to its safety program. The improvements resulted in more frequent job site audits, lowering of its EMR, and better safety rates.
The students’ mock project was a four-million-dollar renovation of the South End Zone of the Indiana University Football Stadium. Using Navisworks, QuoteSoft and 3-D Building Information Modeling (BIM), the students offered plans, specs, costs and schedules to install all of the facility’s mechanical systems, including air-handlers and Energy Recovery Units (ERU’s), and design for the utility piping for the kitchen area. Through value engineering, UMC’s student chapter was able to bring $232,000 in cost savings to the project, which they presented to a panel comprised of contractors from across the U.S. on the convention’s mainstage. Student presenters included Ahmad Atallah, chapter president; hometown: Jerusalem); Addison Korsmeyer (hometown: Alhambra, IL); Derrick Jenkins (secretary; hometown: Kansas City); Adam Moore (vice-president; hometown: Lee’s Summit, MO); Paige Theby (hometown: St. Louis, MO); and Thomas Walsh (treasurer; hometown: St. Louis).
Following the awards ceremony, MCA-EMO Executive Director Kristy Stephens said, “Being selected for the Final Four is a huge ‘win’ for any student chapter. This is a very young chapter that, in five short years, has outpaced student chapters around the country, capturing first place in 2017 and being named MCAA Student Chapter of the Year that same year from among a total of 59 student chapters nationwide. The ‘hands-on’ involvement and wise counsel of our seasoned professionals has helped propel them to become one of the top student chapters whose members are sought out by recruiters from around the country. We also want to congratulate the IFS team for this national recognition of its safety program.
The 16-member student chapter participated in a number of training sessions and programs with MCA-EMO members to help prepare them for this year’s Final Four. MCA-EMO member advisors included: Malcolm Sweet, general manager of Integrated Facility Services in St. Louis, who chaired the MCA-EMO Committee that helped found the student chapter Other advisors included Brian Gent, vice-president, estimating and preconstruction, Corrigan Brothers, Inc.; Robert Grossman, project estimator, and Nick Kniesche, engineer, Murphy Company; and Pat Reilly, vice president of construction marketing, and Ben Haberberger, project manager/estimator, Haberberger, Inc. The UMC student chapter’s faculty advisor is Lawrence Schilke, P.E., managing engineer, UMC.
“This year’s project was a huge challenge for our students,” commented Schilke. “Not only did they learn basics about HVAC systems, piping and ductwork, and plumbing systems; they also learned how to estimate labor and prepare a material takeoff for these systems. They learned how to use many software systems and MCAA’s WEBLEM site. They invested a great of time above and beyond their classes to gain valuable knowledge of the mechanical contracting industry and, in the end, produced a great proposal for the MCAA student competition. As always, we thank MCA-EMO for their financial support and mentoring.”
Malcolm Sweet added that this year’s project was not a typical design-build assignment, but rather a plan and spec job, requiring different skill sets and additional software than that used in previous years. “They worked hard and were well-prepared for this year’s competition,” he said. “It’s wonderful to witness the technical know-how and confidence displayed by these college students who will be the future leaders in our industry”
Atallah said that a major goal this year was recruiting more women to the chapter. “Last year we only had one female member and this year we were able to recruit six new female members through our merger with the Society of Women Engineers. And it was great to be able to welcome two of them as members of our Final Four presentation team.”
When not preparing for the national completion, the student chapter was busy with community and industry outreach, with student Austin Matthews serving as outreach coordinator. Thomas Walsh volunteered for the STEM Cups challenge in local schools. They also made site visits to the UMC chiller plant and to icon Mechanical Construction & Engineering, LLC’s Fab Shop in Granite City, IL. Seven students attended the MCAA’s Great Futures Forum in Anaheim, CA in September 2018. They also sponsor an annual MCAA golf tournament and participate in the MCA-EMO golf tournament to support student scholarships and the chapter’s activities.
“My MCAA student chapter experience actually helped change my career option,” said Atallah. “I intended to go into process/design engineering, but my experience with our student chapter changed my outlook and pointed me towards mechanical contracting. I initially just wanted to get involved and I’ve learned that early industry involvement actually gives back to me. It’s been especially rewarding to be able to network with industry professionals around the country.”
MCA-EMO offers programs crucial to the ongoing success of contractors and vendors operating within the construction industry in Eastern Missouri. For more than 70 years, the MCA has sponsored cost-effective educational opportunities taught by qualified and experienced professionals in the MCA Training Center. MCA-EMO also offers industry events, networking opportunities, and sponsors a student chapter at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Visit: www.mca-emo.com.