Jerry Poling

Executive Communications

News Center

Construction team third in nation; homebuilders group adds support

Students have standout performance; Chippewa Valley Homebuilders helps with funding

Menomonie, Wis. (February 4, 2020) – A construction program team from University of Wisconsin-Stout was determined to make the top five awards podium at a national competition.

The team did just that, taking third in the national student challenge in January at the National Association of Home Builders International Builders’ Show in Las Vegas – after missing out on the podium and taking sixth place last year.

“We felt more confident going into the competition this year. We knew what we really needed to hit on,” said Connor Jackson, of Hartland, a construction major who was one of seven team members.

First, however, the team had to get to Las Vegas. A big assist came from the Chippewa Valley Home Builders Association. Late last fall, CVHBA visited UW-Stout. Students gave a presentation, and CVHBA discussed job opportunities within the industry in the region.

CVHBA presented a $1,500 check to help defray expenses for the trip. NAHB also provided $1,500.

“This project is a great experience for students. They’re really setting themselves apart in the construction industry,” said Christina Thrun, CVHBA executive officer.

“We’d like to continue to work with UW-Stout to get students into the construction industry. It’s a priority for us due to the large worker shortage our industry is facing,” she added.

UW-Stout’s Bachelor of Science in construction program prepares students for management positions in commercial, residential and industrial construction. UW-Stout also offers a master’s in construction management.

CVHBA, founded in 1972, has 391 member companies across six counties representing all aspects of the construction industry. The organization also has helped fund scholarships for UW-Stout students.

In Las Vegas, the awards ceremony was attended by about 1,500 people. The builders’ show drew about 100,000 people over five days in late January.

Students worked throughout the fall on a 50-page proposal. A total of 40 teams from around the U.S. had to develop detailed plans for an age 55-plus living community on a 130-acre parcel of land.

Many other teams competing were from much larger universities, including Nebraska, Michigan State, Purdue, Cal-Poly and Brigham Young.

“We had some really hard-working, dedicated students,” said Associate Professor Dean Wirtanen, the team’s adviser. “I’m proud of them.”

Jackson, a senior, was competing for the fourth straight year. He said proposals, including a presentation at the event, had to include aspects such as site development, roads, housing plans, an amenities center, cost estimation, target market and more.

“It was an all-encompassing proposal and a real-life development,” Jackson said.

Along with Jackson, team members were Alex Buchacek, of Rothschild, junior; Tyler Christensen, of Kasson, Minn., junior; Esteban Perez, of St. Paul, senior; Colton Salzman, of Schofield, junior; Chandler Schreiber, of Elk Mound, junior; and Josh Wisniewski, of Sussex, senior.

Jackson graduated Dec. 13, and in February he began a full-time job as a field engineer in commercial construction for Boldt Company in Appleton.

“I’m grateful for Stout and the opportunities it’s provided me. The construction program is nothing short of phenomenal. I’ll miss it,” Jackson said.

Student Construction Association
Students also received trip funding through volunteering with the Student Construction Association club on campus. Members of SCA work on select projects in the region each semester.

Last fall SCA completed about five projects, including installing a new roof on a pavilion at Elmwood Park in Menomonie, according to President Vincent Lien, a sophomore construction major from Chippewa Falls.

UW-Stout is Wisconsin’s Polytechnic University, with a focus on applied learning, collaboration with business and industry, and career outcomes.


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UW-Stout’s construction competition team took third place in the nation recently in a National Association of Home Builders event. From left are Esteban Perez, Chandler Schreiber, Colton Salzman, Alex Buchacek, Connor Jackson, Tyler Christensen and Josh Wisniewski.

The Chippewa Valley Home Builders Association donated $1,500 to the UW-Stout construction team to help it compete in the national event. CVHBA members are, left Pat Smith, Eau Claire Insulation and Exteriors; second from left, CVHBA President Paul Holzinger, Holzinger Homes; and right, Adam Ashley, Ashley Construction.

Dean Wirtanen

CVHBA logo