Course under construction


Eric Showalter and students with iPads donated by S&T alumni. Photo by B.A. Rupert

Old class: Eric Showalter, associate teaching professor of civil, architectural and environmental engineering, has taught a construction management course called Cost Estimating and Scheduling for more than a decade. One semester-long assignment requires students to pick a construction site and keep a diary of everything that happens there — from weather conditions to which subcontractors are on site and what work is being done. It gets them in the habit of observing and writing, Showalter says.

New twist: Last fall, instead of keeping a paper diary, his students tracked their progress on iPads using an app called Construction Superintendent Journeyman. The entire course is paperless. All assignments are completed electronically. Both the iPads and the apps were donated by S&T alumni.

The gift: Bob Brinkmann, a 1971 civil engineering graduate and CEO of Brinkmann Constructors, believed that S&T students should be exposed to new, high-tech approaches to project management. He brought together a group of alumni and corporations with construction-based interests to donate 30 iPads to the S&T civil, architectural and environmental engineering department.

Donors: Brinkmann Constructors; Bradley Hornburg, civil engineering, class of 1969; Landmark Contract Management Inc.; Richard Arnoldy, civil engineering, class of 1969; ARCO Construction Co.; John Mathes, civil engineering, class of 1967, master’s degree 1968; William Clarke, civil engineering, class of 1974, master’s degree 1979; and Raymond Betz, civil engineering class of 1966, donated the iPads. Brinkmann, Bob Wacker, computer science class of 1977, and Bryan Baehr created the iPad app through their joint venture, Construction Centrics, and donated 30 apps.

This semester: Showalter is using the iPads and Construction Superintendent Journeyman in his senior design course teaching 90 students, eight of whom are on the Missouri State University campus in Springfield. Students in the course are divided into teams. Every student in Springfield is assigned an iPad, as is each team leader. This semester the students are working with Nick Bristow, a 2007 civil engineering graduate and a senior project engineer at Clayco Construction. Each team of students is designing a healthcare facility from the ground up.

In his words: “In construction, you’re always tracking who is on site, what the weather is like and what’s going on each day,” Showalter says. “I tell them they should always come up with a question. There is always something they don’t know about. Hopefully that gives us something to discuss in class. Something they have seen, describing a piece of equipment, who is responsible for something — the site is messy, there’s no erosion control, a lot of dirt is being tracked on public roads — what happens with that? That is exactly what I want them to do with a journal like this — think about what is happening on a construction site and who is responsible for those things.”

By Mary Helen Stoltz
This has been updated from a story in the Spring 2012 issue of Missouri S&T Magazine.