Constructors of tomorrow show off skills at International Construction Challenge
High school student teams from across the nation turned out to show their interest in improving, designing and maintaining infrastructure for the Association of Equipment Manufacturers’ and Destination ImagiNation’s first International Construction Challenge, held at ConExpo-Con/Agg in Las Vegas, Nevada, on March 10-14. The stakes were high – the winners walked away with not only the title, but also college scholarships and new computers.

Fifty-one groups advanced to compete in the Las Vegas finals after making it through January’s regional rallies, which hosted a total of 180 teams. At both events, teams participated in three challenges, including Infrastructure Dialogue, Equipment and Careers (product development) and the Road Warrior challenge. The challenges were broken down into points, totaling 1,000, and teams’ scores from all three were used to determine rankings.

For the Road Warrior challenge, teams were given $100 worth of materials and asked to build small-scale construction equipment that could haul aggregate over a makeshift transportation structure. Each team built their equipment prior to attending the challenge, and then paired with an opposing group at the finals to collaborate in building the infrastructure, which included a road, bridge, highway and pipeline. Later, the same two teams competed head-to-head to deliver as much aggregate as possible using the infrastructure they built.

Many teams worked after school, during lunch or on the weekends to build their equipment. “Using a donated drill and other items, we built a crane and pulley system to lay pipe,” says Joe Rule, team member, Collinsville High School, Collinsville, Illinois. Rule says his team worked well together because everyone had a purpose – two of the members could weld, two had taken a construction trade course and the other team members were geared toward academics, such as math and science.

“We are working with Destination ImagiNation to make sure that everything the students’ did to prepare for the challenge meets their schools’ curriculum,” says Al Cervero, senior vice president, AEM. Several groups took at least eight weeks to prepare for the finals, giving the Road Warrior challenge high priority, as it offered the highest points to be earned.

In the Equipment and Careers category, teams created interactive educational resources and/or products highlighting careers in construction, or construction equipment for a target audience. Before heading to Las Vegas, each team tested its product on a target audience and then made necessary adjustments. At the finals, Construction Challenge appraisers rated the prototypes and ConExpo-Con/Agg attendees were allowed to vote on their favorite product for the People’s Choice award.

As for their product, the Collinsville team created “The Developer’s Life,” which is similar to “The Game of Life.” But instead of advancing to a new career or buying home insurance, “The Developer’s Life” had participants run into problems with parking illegally and obtaining government funding.

A four-member team from Gilmer High School, based in Gilmer, Texas, wanted to reach out to 15- to 20-year-olds about construction careers, so they invented a mobile career information center. Using a cone and a quartered bouncy ball, they inserted paper scrolls containing information about construction jobs and used stop signs and hazard signs with information printed on the back to attract attention.

For Infrastructure Dialogue, teams randomly selected questions concerning community drinking water, sewage treatment, road and highway systems, drainage and flood control or transit bridge needs, and then paired with another team to debate the merits of an approach related to the topic question. Afterward, each group responded to questions from Construction Challenge appraisers and audience members.

The overall winner, a seven-member team from Perry Public Schools, Perry, Oklahoma, impressed judges with their collaborative efforts in building “construction equipment” for the Road Warrior challenge – so much so that they also placed first in that category. The team, sponsored by Ditch Witch, included Amy Biedberdorf, Cassandra Bratcher, Kelsey Cave, Daniel Cross, Dakota Johnson, Trevor Kukuk and Evan Williams. Each team member received a $2,000 scholarship and a new computer.

According to the team’s manager, technical education teacher Jeff Zagar, the group built a duplicate of the Road Warrior course for their school so the team could practice and feel confident and prepared when they arrived in Las Vegas. “We logged our hours and each team member had an average of 112 hours prep time,” Zagar says.

Seven other teams also received recognition at the challenge:

  • Miami Valley Career Technical Center, Englewood, Ohio, sponsored by Link-Belt Cranes, won second place overall and second place in the Road Warrior challenge.
  • West Geauga High School, Chesterland, Ohio, sponsored by Caterpillar – and the only all-girl team – won third place overall and first place in Equipment and Careers for product development and first place in Infrastructure Dialogue. AEM will help produce the team’s educational product – a coloring book for young children – to help introduce more young people to construction careers.
  • Mahwah High School, Mahwah, New Jersey, sponsored by Manitowoc Crane Group, won second place in Equipment and Careers and third place in Infrastructure Dialogue.
  • Jesuit Prep Academy, Dallas, Texas, sponsored by Volvo Construction Equipment, won third place in the Road Warrior challenge.
  • Highland Park High School, Highland Park, Illinois, sponsored by Miller Electric Manufacturing, won third place in Equipment and Careers.

For more information on the challenge or to see additional photos from the event, visit
– Barbara Ibrahim Cox

CSDA conducts study on drop-in anchor failures
Half-inch anchor failures pose a serious hazard to operators and workers. If the anchors completely fail a 125-pound drill rig could fall on the operator or the rig could possibly torque around the drill bit, and cause serious injuries to the operator and other workers. The problem prompted the Concrete Sawing and Drilling Association to turn to the University of Toledo’s College of Engineering to come up with a solution.

UT’s findings recommended several remedies: countersink depth be limited to 1/2 inch, anchors be perpendicular to the surface, and that expansion plugs be fully set and the threaded rod be fully engaged with the anchor. Also, leveling screws should be adjusted before the base plate is installed on threaded rod, and the torque on the threaded rod should be no more than 19 foot-pounds.

“The main thing is to set the anchor straight to prevent causing stress to one side of the anchor,” says Skip Aston, chair of the CDSA safety committee. “Most people just don’t think to set the anchor straight because it’s such a routine procedure. If procedures are not properly followed then you could potentially have a catastrophic failure.”
– Adam Giannini

Industry Briefs
Peterbilt announces plans for full production of hybrid vehicles

Peterbilt will start production its Model 330 and Model 335 medium-duty hybrid vehicles at the company’s Saint Therese, Quebec, Canada, manufacturing facility this summer. According to the company, the 330 provides up to a 30-percent improvement in fuel efficiency and the 335 offers a 60-percent improvement when configured for utility applications.

Cat enters tunnel boring market
Caterpillar has acquired Lovat, a manufacturer of tunnel boring machines. Rick Lovat, president and chief executive officer of Lovat, will join Cat’s Global Mining Division and have responsibility for growing the Caterpillar tunnel boring business. Financial details were not released.

Yanmar opens new assembly facility
Yanmar has opened a new production facility in their Adairsville, Georgia, complex. The 240,000-square-foot facility will produce tractors coming from Yanmar’s joint venture with Cub Cadet. The expansion will provide nearly 200 new jobs and also house North American home offices for Yanmar construction, agricultural equipment, marine engine assembly and the replacement parts divisions.

Freightliner to cut jobs
Daimler Trucks North America will cut approximately 1,500 jobs at its Cleveland, North Carolina, Freightliner manufacturing facility. The company says a drop in demand for heavy trucks prompted the cuts, due to take effect June 6.