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K'nexercise: Introducing Students To The Key Participants In The Design Construction Process

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2002 Annual Conference


Montreal, Canada

Publication Date

June 16, 2002

Start Date

June 16, 2002

End Date

June 19, 2002



Conference Session

Trends in Construction Engr. Educ. II

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.776.1 - 7.776.11



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Paper Authors

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Eric Lachance

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Allen Estes

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

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Allen C. Estes, Eric M. Lachance, and Stephen J. Ressler United States Military Academy


The design-construction process is complex and involves key players who must communicate and work together for a project to be successful. The owner, architect, project manager, construction contractor, sub-contractors, vendors, and lawyers all have key roles, unique perspectives, individual motivations and vested (but sometimes competing) interests in a given project. Without first-hand experience, students can have difficulty understanding how the parties interact and why conflicts or disputes arise. This paper describes a participative hands-on construction management exercise which models the design-construction process using K’nex,â building toys and provides assessments gained from four consecutive years of experience with senior level CE students.

Student teams are divided into Architect-Engineering firms, construction contractors, and project managers. The A-E firms design competing structures that meet specific functional requirements using K’nex components. Construction contractors, who want to win the job while maximizing their profit, use the A-E’s design documents to prepare a competitive bid. Students construct the competing structures as a timed event and the total cost is based on materials, labor, and bonuses/penalties. The winning project provides a functional structure for the owner at the lowest cost. Individual participants are graded on how well they served their own interests in the free-market economy by maximizing profit, reducing errors, cutting costs, etc.

Assessments show that students developed keen insight into the roles, motivations, and interactions of the key participants as a result. The exchanges were lively, emotional, and sometimes contentious. The rules can be modified to include litigation, quality control, cash flow, or most other aspects of the complex design-construction process. Students competed in a K’nexercise at the ASCE Regional Student Conference at West Point in April 2001. Due to the success of the competition, the K’nexercise will be an official event at the ASCE Student National Conference in Madison in June 2002.


The design and construction of a project is a long and complex process that students do not fully appreciate until they are involved on their first job site. For an employer, this is not the appropriate time for a young employee to learn the process and the players. Each participant in the design-construction process has interests and motivations that govern their behavior in the marketplace. The K’nexercise used at the United States Military Academy helps students experience these perspectives first-hand. The students receive instruction on the design-

“Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright Ó 2002, American Society for Engineering Education”

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Lachance, E., & Estes, A. (2002, June), K'nexercise: Introducing Students To The Key Participants In The Design Construction Process Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada. 10.18260/1-2--11114

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