RWU Teams Place Second, Third at Collegiate Construction Competition

Construction Management and Architecture majors developed winning construction and design solutions in the Associated Schools of Construction annual challenge

By Jordan J. Phelan ’19
Construction Management and Architecture students pose for a photo at the ASC regional competition with a check they won
All 18 Construction Management and Architecture students and their three faculty coaches at the Associated Schools of Construction Region 1 Student Competition and Conference, with a $600 check they received as part of the Heavy Civil team’s second-place finish.

ALBANY, N.Y. – A college’s desire to repurpose campus buildings for a new academic program. The reconstruction of a bridge over an existing interstate highway. And much-needed upgrades to a New York metropolitan train station. What do all of these projects have in common? 

These were the prompts that three groups of Roger Williams University students had to answer as part of the 34th annual Associated Schools of Construction (ASC) Region 1 Student Competition and Conference held in Albany, N.Y., from Nov. 9 to 11. The 18 RWU students’ comprehensive construction and design solutions earned them two second-place and one third-place rankings in their respective categories against 25 other student crews. 

“These competitions are a tremendous opportunity for networking and give our students an experience to apply what we talk about in the classroom to create solutions to real-world problems,” said Jonathan Gomes, a lecturer in the Construction Management program and coach of the Heavy Civil team. “By giving them some exposure to the real world, we provide them an opportunity to find a career path that's really exciting and showcase just how good they are as students.”

Gomes’ group placed second in their category and included Construction Management seniors Olivia Ahlborg, Brent Clemens, Sean Dwyer, and Jayson Forneiro and juniors Sal Cicale and Brendan Donovan. Also securing a second-place spot was the interdisciplinary Design-Build team, led by Jung Hyun Lee, Assistant Professor of Construction Management, and consisting of Construction Management juniors Kyle Menice, Bryce Riccitelli, Shane Royer, and Evan VanDerVelden and Architecture seniors Michael Bussinelli and Zack Wieners. 

Shay Kurzinski, Assistant Professor of Construction Management, oversaw the Commercial team, which placed third, with Construction Management seniors Marielli Alifonso, Alivia DeGrotta, and Christina Marra and juniors Daniel Fontana, Danny Wilson, and Brendan Wyllie.

This year’s Heavy Civil team was tasked with developing a plan to reconstruct a bridge over a highway, which required intricate knowledge of steel erection, structural concrete, bridge finishes and much more. With one ASC competition already under his belt, senior Jayson Forneiro, a Construction Management major with a minor in Business from Long Island, N.Y., said he felt confident to step into the co-captain role. He used his previous competition experience to help divvy up responsibilities, identify useful software programs, and prepare his peers to handle the unexpected.

“We were so well prepared as a team that I felt we had a bit of a jump start heading into the competition,” he said. “[The judges] ended up throwing a curveball this year, which made us pivot. But because everyone did a good job readjusting, we got back on track pretty quickly.”

Six Roger Williams students stand next to a screen with their project slides on it
Members of Roger Williams University's Commercial team present their project at the Associated Schools of Construction Region 1 Student Competition and Conference, in front of industry professionals from Whiting-Turner Contracting Company.

Having Construction Management and Architecture students work together and share their diverse knowledge and skills helped the Design-Build team create a more nuanced proposal, according to team captain and junior Bryce Riccitelli. “We came up with a really good product,” he said. “It was great being able to learn more about the design process from members of the team and how that plays into the final result.”

Riccitelli, a Construction Management major with a minor in Business from Monroe, Conn., said that he sometimes has a hard time visualizing what he learns in the classroom. “Being able to go to competitions helps you refine your skills and see what you will be doing once you graduate,” he said.

In a competition of this scale, with 17 institutions throughout the Northeast competing head-to-head in front of industry professionals from renowned construction firms, confidence is key, said senior Alivia DeGrotta, a Construction Management major with a minor in Business from Queens, N.Y.

“The team this year was fantastic, and I am so very proud of them. We felt very confident going into the competition, and my teammates showed that they weren’t nervous,” said DeGrotta, captain of the Commercial team. “It’s like a family at RWU, and we all push each other to do better.” 

But being nervous is part of the process, Gomes said. “That's what we're trying to achieve here with getting students ready for the industry,” he said. “As much as we want to create professionals who are really strong construction fundamentalists, it's important for them to also be problem solvers. Being able to face those nerves and overcome them is a big step to that.”

Another standout of the competition is the opportunity for students to network with companies, something Forneiro said he can attest to. Shortly after his participation in last year’s competition, he was offered a job with Flatiron, one of the conference’s sponsors, which he will begin following his graduation in May 2024.

“If you're kind of 50/50 on where you want to end up in the future, competitions like this are a good opportunity to experiment because you're never going to know if you love it or hate it unless you try it,” Forneiro said.

On Nov. 11, winners were announced during an awards dinner with all participating schools in attendance. For DeGrotta, who will be working for Schimenti Construction Company as a project engineer after graduation, hearing RWU’s name called is a moment she won’t soon forget.

“The announcer was like, ‘What’s in the water at Roger Williams? Everyone's ranking this year.’ That felt really, really great.”