Jake Weiss, a junior in construction management, gathered his team of 10 students around the living room as the sizzle of pancakes and smell of bacon drifted through the house. Sipping orange juice, Weiss presented the prompt for this year’s Electrical Contractors Innovation Challenge: to submit an electrical contractor’s proposal for the Emerson Student Center at Oglethorpe University.

The team mimicked the processes used by professionals in the field, including scheduled values, pay applications, and looking at scheduling and purchase order submittals. They will submit their proposal on Friday and await the judging.

Weiss explained that the experience is similar to “learn by doing,” as they are engaging in the same processes they will use in their future careers. The top three teams will present their project proposals at a conference in Philadelphia in the fall, where they will compete with teams from other universities and companies in the industry.

Weiss and Nina Tamayo, a junior in construction management, highlighted the interdisciplinary nature of the subject matter and the importance of the clubs and competition teams available to students. Tamayo switched to construction management from environmental engineering and found the subject matter to be more hands-on and applicable.

Cal Poly’s construction management curriculum does not typically cover electrical contracting until the fourth year, so the team had to seek external support. Taft Electric’s Santa Maria office served as the team’s advisor, offering assistance at every step, including legal support to sort through the contract.

While the team is smaller than its competitors, Weiss emphasized the importance of the personal experience and knowledge gained from participating in the challenge. He hopes to see more students explore niche contracting careers such as electrical, mechanical, or concrete, citing the shorter hours and higher pay.

In addition to managing the proposal’s progress and his course load, Weiss is responsible for team fundraising. The team is working on hosting a golf tournament to raise funds to attend the conference in Philadelphia.

Despite the challenges, Weiss looks forward to networking and celebrating months of hard work at the conference, which he described as “just a big party.” The conference will be held from Sept. 29 to Oct. 2, and more information can be found on the ECIC website.