This year three high-achieving School of Architecture and Built Environment students had the ultimate adventure in southern USA. Mick Abdou, Stephanie Dimitrio and Olivia Sioukas were given the opportunity to travel to America and compete in the Associated Schools of Construction Competition, kindly sponsored by KANE Construction. The students, along with senior lecturer in Construction Management Dr Glenn Costin, spent two weeks in Auburn, Alabama, and Dallas, Texas. They collaborated with three students from Auburn University to take out third place in the competition – an incredible result.

Building team bonds a recipe for success

It wasn’t until we arrived and met the Auburn University teaching team that it all felt real. We arrived on the movie-like American college campus and were introduced to our three other team members – Building Science and Architecture students Nathanell, Nicolas and Jonathon. In order to test our compatibility, we did what any wise group of students would do – we completed an Escape Room! This helped us to understand how each team member worked under time pressure and ultimately assisted our ability to successfully complete a task under competition conditions.

There were definitely some challenges that we faced throughout the competition, like measurement conversions and currency exchanges. But these were positive challenges that forced us to think outside the box and work in collaboration with the Auburn University students. This trip really highlighted how lucky we are to have such a high calibre of professors at Deakin. It helped us to quickly adapt to the American teaching methods.

Olivia, Mick and Stephanie at an Auburn University basketball game.

The competition begins
A few Starbucks coffees, campus tours, basketball games and mac and cheese dinners later, it was finally competition day. Our team nervously arrived on campus, awaiting our brief. Then we received our request for proposals (RFP): we had to design an extension to an existing museum in Richland Hills, Texas, creating a completely new exhibition space.

Our team had already successfully allocated roles and responsibilities, so we were able to quickly begin the 16-hour day ahead of us.

Steph and Olivia would handle all things company – designing the company values, structure, team charts and RFP document to provide to our client. Thought it seems like a simple task, it was imperative in the overall image we would need to portray to our client on presentation day. Mick and Jonathan took charge on the specifics of the design and created an ‘out of this world’ museum. Nate and Nicholas took charge of the schedule and budget. As a team, in 16 hours we produced a podium finish RFP that we were extremely proud of.

We came up with the company name AUSCon, standing for Australia, United States of America Construction. It was based on the philosophy of collaboration between two very different design and construction industries from opposite ends of the world, to create a leaner design and construction method. Diversity and collaboration were a significant aspect of our design and construction methodologies, and we wanted to be able to share that with our client as it formed the basis for their design.

Team AUSCon at work.

Achieving an incredible result
The 16 hours couldn’t have gone faster. We soon found ourselves submitting our work and heading to the airport to catch our flight to Dallas. At 7am the next morning we would be pitching our design and trying to convince our client that we were the best fit for their vision. Nervously awaiting the results, it was clear that every member of the team had worked as hard as they could to produce the best end product possible. It is not every day you get to say you went half way across the world to present your own personally designed building to a very successful and illustrious construction company in the United States.

After a long day of waiting, the results were in – and AUSCon placed third! We were extremely proud of our efforts and being recognised in the top three out of many competitive colleges.

Although placing is a great feeling, we were most proud of the bond that our team had formed and how in such a short time we were able to work so effortlessly together. It is very rare to be thrown together and have the kind of chemistry that allows such quality work to be created. We were all very pleased that we were able to use our knowledge from Deakin and apply it to this competition.

Proud third place winners with our the Associated Schools of Construction Competition trophy.

An experience that will enhance our studies and future careers

This trip couldn’t have happened without generous financial support from Kane Constructions. We would also like to thank our teachers, Linda Tivendale and Glenn Costin, and the University for allowing the trip to happen. Glenn was an instrumental member of our team – his wisdom and expertise in the construction industry really benefited our team and our progression in the competition.

This experience has been extremely rewarding – not only for our own personal development, but for the enhancement of our studies back home. Entering the competition has broadened our knowledge and understanding of the design build process, as well as fostering relationships and engagement with others in the industry. The opportunity to study and participate in an international competition has allowed each of us to bring back new techniques and skills and incorporate them into our work in Australia.