Mortenson-CSU BIM Boot Camp Prepares Students for Real-World Construction

A BIM/VDC training program equips students for a career in an industry that's increasingly reliant on technology

Mortenson is a regional leader for the construction industry in the Rocky Mountains. Colorado State University (CSU), in Fort Collins, consistently ranks as having one of the best construction management programs in the West. And for the past five years, Mortenson and CSU have been offering a BIM Boot Camp for students at CSU’s Construction Management School. The boot camp provides an introduction to the critical skills in software utilization, virtual design and construction to prepare graduates for a career in an industry that’s increasingly reliant on technology.

The boot camp is a five-week-long course that gives students experience in advanced BIM/VDC (building information modeling/virtual design and construction) software such as Bluebeam, Revit, SketchUp, Navisworks, BIM 360 Field/Glue, laser scanning, and the use of virtual reality.

Industry, Academia Team Up for Better Results

Mortenson has an ongoing history with the university: in 2013, they donated funds and built the Center for Virtual Design and Construction, a computer lab at the Department of Construction Management.

Chris Boal, who heads the VDC department at Mortenson’s Denver office, has been teaching in the program since its inception in 2013 and helped design the original curriculum. Mortenson’s commitment to CSU is rooted in a concern for the future of the community and for construction at large. “We care about the industry, we’re trying to give back,” Boal said. “CSU giving us an opportunity to be a part of that space is a big deal.” Boal knows firsthand that new hires often don’t have the requisite design skills in BIM and require lots of training. And having a Mortenson VDC Engineer lead the boot camp comes with another perk: the company just finished building the new $220-million football stadium on campus, so students were able to take a field trip to see firsthand how applications used in the classroom manifested in real life.

Jeff Wilkes, CSU’s faculty sponsor of the boot camp, and Heavy Civil Endowed Chair in the Construction Management Department, has been involved in the boot camp since its second year of operation. He recognizes the benefits of having students learn from instructors who are out in the field, practicing every day, especially when it comes to the latest software. “BIM tools are changing so rapidly that you need the flexibility to deliver to the students what is most pertinent in that cycle. Things we talked about in 2013…now it’s almost old news and we’re talking about new things.” A traditional academic course would have trouble responding to such rapid shifts in technology, added Wilkes.

Hands-On Experience With Leading Software

From day one, students get instruction in a number of software programs. Bluebeam Revu, Boal says, “is the first software that’s taught out of the gate. It’s such a baseline part of our day to day.” While in the lab, students can use all the different programs, but Revu is provided to each student on their personal computer, as well, so they can have access to it anytime, anywhere—a valuable asset, as there are never enough classroom hours to cover

Even if students don’t have the time to master every application, the program provides a valuable introduction to the types of real-world skills that will be expected of them in their careers. Ian Rice, a 2016 graduate of CSU’s program who is now a Field Engineer at Milender White Construction in Aurora, CO, credits the boot camp for showing him how important BIM would be in every future project. “With all the new technologies that are being developed and improved on, you need to be able to learn and grow with it, or fall behind,” Rice said. Because of the boot camp and other experiences, he has been able to help run Milender White’s BIM coordination meetings for projects he’s involved with and solve issues out in the

Another 2016 graduate of the program, Parker Stokke, is now a BIM/Layout Engineer at FCI Constructors in the Denver area. He said the BIM Boot Camp showed him “how technology in construction can be used to manage project processes and better aid the visualization of designs.” In particular, he cited the introduction to Bluebeam and Navisworks as being crucial: “Both of these software programs are becoming increasingly important and used throughout the industry. Here in Northern Colorado at FCI, we utilize both and continue to encourage our partners and subcontractors to do the

Mortenson and CSU are constantly working to improve the program, and this year they’re considering changes to the curriculum that will allow students to go even deeper into certain technologies, with more time spent in the classroom. The process of selecting the most relevant and important software for the construction leaders of tomorrow is never-ending, but the partnership between the two entities ensures that the BIM Boot Camp will continue to play a crucial part in the education of the country’s future builders.

In today’s competitive marketplace, it’s more important than ever that students be fluent with digital construction tools.

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