Zama teens make bid for top spot in engineering contest

Japan Engineer District
Published Jan. 31, 2012
CAMP ZAMA, Japan -- What began four years ago as an opportunity for high school students to observe a construction site has blossomed into annual competitions that promote science education in concert with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Sixteen Zama American High School engineering students recently competed in a realistic bid-proposal contest, giving them a taste of what they can experience if they continue their educational pursuit of science, technology, engineering and math careers.

The contest, in its third year, was designed by two Japan Engineer District professionals and a ZAHS career and technical education instructor. Each year students face a different challenge that allows them to practice what they learned in teacher Jay Ruetten's high school classroom. The idea for a competition came after Ruetten asked JED engineers to allow his students to examine a construction site four years ago.

The students formed five independent contractor teams who were challenged to gather technical information and submit a request for proposal for work on a new School Age Services building recently completed by JED at Sagamihara Family Housing Area near Camp Zama. Specifically, each team was responsible for providing an estimate of renovation work for six rooms on the first floor of the new building.

Like actual contractors, the students had to bid on materials, labor and overhead costs of installing half-inch drywall, floor carpeting, baseboard carpeting, ceiling tile, gypsum ceiling board, and the installation of new windows. Students with the most realistic bid would be declared the champions.

The winners and runners-up were announced Dec. 1. Teams also received an explanation for how the winning bid was selected. This year's second-place team was comprised of George Cardenas, Roland Cote and Mason Moffet. The 2011 bid proposal champions were Team GAS, made up of Gabe Malate, Arvin Cortez and Stephen Ferrer.

The competition was very close, said Ruetten and JED's Brad Scully and Cedric Bazemore.

"The students are getting better every year," Ruetten said.

Col. Bryan P. Truesdell, JED commander, invited the winning team to his office Jan. 18 to congratulate them on their accomplishment. He presented each team member a certificate and coin to commemorate the victory.

Bazemore provided insight on the judging.

"One group's calculations closely matched the government estimate, however the group failed to multiply the final number by six (the final price required costs for six rooms, not one) as required by the assignment," he said. "Although this mistake was minor, it ultimately cost the group the competition. This was also a great assignment to teach students the importance of reconfirming their calculations and rechecking their final numbers."

The students said they witnessed firsthand that details are required to join a competent, disciplined, and resilient engineer team equipped to deliver high quality solutions, and to stand out from the competition. Each student said they plan to continue study in a technical field in college.