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One of the great opportunities of being part of the Viterbi School of Engineering are the design competitions you can participate in. These competitions take joining a USC club to the next level, more than attending meeting, you can participate in a simulation of what it is like to be a real-like engineer. As the Captain of the Design Build Team for the Construction Management Association of America, I have participated in several of these competitions and wanted to outline why they have been a highlight of my college career so far:

  • These competitions try to give real-life prompts and are therefore trying to simulate a real engineering job. For example, the company that sponsors our Design Build competition gives us a real project they constructed for the prompt. We then proceed to spend 15+ hours locked in a hotel room in Sparks, Nevada hammering out how we would build it the project and why. After we are completed, they present how they actually constructed it to every team. I believe this takes the learning experience a step further than our very conceptual classes to gain a better application of this knowledge.
  • Getting out of my comfort zone was a big deal for me when I first entered the Design Build team. I had no design competition experience and felt very intimidated by the whole process. But with the weekly meetings, the one-on-ones with our coaches, and eventually successfully completing our work, I grew in so much confidence about my ability to be a qualified and competent engineer in the work force. Also with having to explain my work to a panel of executives with 20+ years of experience, my heart was racing! But it was amazing to be able to pull it off and I gained more confidence in my public speaking and presentation skills.
  • Because these competitions are great experience to prepare for the real world, they frequently host job fairs which are a great opportunity to network. In my case it was great talking to companies that were directly looking for the skills gained by the competition, therefore a high chance of gaining an internship. The interviewed with Turner Construction at the job fair and that is where I gained by first ever internship!
  • Last but not least is the fun of it! For the competition we bussed from Los Angeles to Sparks, Nevada and had the opportunity to stay in a nice hotel and have catered food. Besides the stress of the competition, it feels like a vacation from the occasional monotony of college life.
Timothy Harrington