Building Construction Students Fall Forward, Win Big

The Burdell Construction team stands together holding a giant check.
Photo: School of Building Construction
The Burdell Construction team, left to right: Richard Still, Jared Abrahamian, Isabelle Williams, Naomi Censullo, Jacob Waddell, Tripp Williams.

Richard Still didn’t know what to expect when he entered his first student competition with Associated Schools of Construction (ASC). As a new student in a reactivated major at Georgia Tech, the November 16 competition was another “first” in a long line of new experiences for the (Sophomore from Georgia.)

His teammate, Isabelle Williams, understood their challenge better.

“Half of the team that competed this year had the benefit of competing last year as well, which helped us set expectations,” Williams said. Last year, Georgia Tech came in last place at the Regional ASC student competition. Last week, their team (aptly named, “Burdell Construction”) won first place in the design-build division of the ASC Southeast Region Student Competition.

Their "secret weapon’" Williams said, was team coach and part-time lecturer Alex Moutaftchieva (MSBCFM ’22), who participated in the same competition as an undergraduate.

The students on the Burdell Construction team met during their limited free time to work on the competition project, Moutaftchieva said, often late on Fridays and weekends.

“AM King, the sponsoring company and competition judge was impressed by the team’s professionalism and communication and noted that the collaborative team dynamic was evident throughout the presentation,” she said.

“With the support of our awesome coach Alexandra Moutaftchieva and the Building Construction program, we were able to create a professional proposal for the ASC Design-Build competition,” Still said.

“As the QA/QC Manager of Burdell Construction, my work for the project highlighted the importance of construction quality and safety,” he said, “which are principles stressed in our Building Construction program.”

The team also included School of Architecture student Jared Abrahamian – Burdell Construction’s Principal Architect.

“As an architecture major, this was an incredible out-of-comfort experience getting to work alongside Building Construction students,” Abrahamian said. “This project was like no other I have done within the School of Architecture, as I had to employ business skills and truly put myself in the client’s shoes to be successful.”

Reactivated and Rebuilt

The cover of Burdell Construction's winning presentation.
Image: School of Building Construction
The cover of Burdell Construction's winning presentation.

“I am incredibly proud of our students,” School of Building Construction Chair Ece Erdogmus said. “Their presentation was excellent, and they represented Georgia Tech superbly.”

“When we did our Vision 2030 exercise for the School, I projected us placing in national competitions in 2023. But thanks to these brilliant students, we are one year ahead of our goals!” Erdogmus said.

“It’s the ultimate comeback story!” Williams said. “To be completely honest, I’m not even focusing on the win, I’m celebrating the improvement from last year.”

The sentiment is shared by the Burdell Construction team and the School.

“The students showed that we are not only back among the distinguished list of construction programs in the Southeast, but better than ever,” Erdogmus said. Erdogmus was named chair in 2021.

With the help of a strong alumni base in the construction industry, Erdogmus has revitalized the Bachelor of Science in Building Construction program at Georgia Tech.

She spent the last year building structure within the undergraduate program. With an impressive industry advisory board as mentors, a Student Advisory and Leadership Board that communicates their needs to Erdogmus, a new lecture series, and increased undergraduate courses, this year’s competing students were excellently prepared for the Regional ASC competition.

“We are very fortunate to be surrounded with such a vibrant construction industry,” Erdogmus said. “I cannot think of a better place than Metro Atlanta to educate the next generation of construction managers, program managers, facility managers, and Real Estate developers.”

Moutaftchieva credits the School’s close connection with the industry as a decisive factor for the ASC Design-Build competition win.

The students got guidance and feedback from several industry members, including Ryan Horne (Beck Group,) Chad Waters (Brasfield Gorrie), Manish Paryani (Paryani Construction), Liz O’Connor (Evans General Contractors), Tony Pitrone (Pond Co.), Jack Noonan (SubZero Constructors), Angela Rogers (Turner Construction).

School of Building Construction advisors included Ennis Parker, Javier Irizarry, and Ece Erdogmus.

“Each of these individuals’ expertise provided the students with real-world information, which was specifically acknowledged by the judges,” Moutaftchieva said.

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