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Hard Hats and Software: Boise State’s CM Students Know Both


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Dr. Casey Cline is an assistant professor in Boise State University’s Construction Management program, and an enthusiastic, articulate, and energetic proponent of the construction discipline being taught in the university classroom. Boise State U’s Construction Management program is likewise an example of robust, and practical, scholarship. 

In 1976 the Idaho branch of the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) had a brilliant idea, and they pitched it to Boise State University (BSU); might the university be interested in offering a Construction Management (CM) Program with a formalized, degree-conferring curriculum? 

A 2015 Texas A&M survey found that 72% of construction professionals use smartphones at (and for) work, 54% use laptops, and 50% use tablets.

Today BSU’s accredited and nationally recognized Construction Management Program has 180 students and offers a Bachelor of Science, a minor in Construction Management, and a certificate in Construction Management for industry professionals; a one-stop Ivory Tower for the serious construction scholar. 

It should come as no surprise, then, that BSU’s CM students were early adopters of mobile jobsite technologies at a time when many in the construction sector were still reluctant to leverage construction software and the collaborative efficiencies of The Cloud. 

“As far back as 2012, Boise State was one of the first construction schools that went to 100% mobile technology,” Casey says. “We saw that the construction industry was going to tablets and thought we needed to get ahead of that if we could. We saw the wave.”

The wave Casey is referring to has yet to crest in the construction sector. A 2015 Texas A&M survey found that 72% of construction professionals use smartphones at (and for) work, 54% use laptops, and 50% use tablets. 

The numbers are ticking upward, but as has been widely noted, the construction sector has yet to fully embrace the benefits of mobile cloud computing. Casey’s students happily climbed aboard, most of them of the generation to whom the Information Age is a second skin. Has Casey seen anything at all like “construction culture pushback” in his CM classrooms? More mild laughter. 

“The very first semester we had guys saying, ‘Well this is crap! iPads aren't used in construction.’ Now it's four years later; students in class are just walking in with the same technology they’re using on the jobsites for their internships. I mean, they’re even taking notes on their tablets, many of them using different applications for that. It's pretty cool.”

Another vital app on the students’ mobile devices is Procore

“Construction is much more technical than it used to be,” Casey says. “A superintendent has to get in there and be able to understand how to use the new technology, not just on a computer but on a tablet. For an RFI they’re going to take a picture of a problem, then they're going to find that area on the set of drawings. They're going to annotate the drawing, attach that to an RFI, and send it off using their iPad. Well, that's not your old superintendent's job. That's your new superintendent’s job. And that's Procore.” 

Procore’s collaborative, cloud-based environment unites a project’s workforce around an integrated mobile system of tools that is second to none in the industry. From the classroom to the jobsite, Procore is the world’s most-used construction management software. In fact, the Procore name appears on the John Wesley Powell Prize awarded to Cline’s CM class for “…outstanding achievement in the field of historic preservation projects.” Cline elaborates on the unique and award-winning restoration project his students undertook at a former WWII-era internment camp for Japanese-Americans, now an educational site in Idaho’s Minidoka National Historic Site. 

“A grant of $280,378 was awarded by the National Park Service to the Friends of Minidoka to construct the guard tower and complete additional projects. The guard tower reconstruction was a collaborative project between the Friends of Minidoka, the National Park Service, Boise State University Department of Construction Management, and the BSU Construction Management Association (CMA), which is an Associated General Contractors (AGC) student chapter. All management and construction processes were conducted using iPads and Procore.

These days, Cline even requires his students in BSU’s Construction Management Program to become Procore Certified as they move through the course work. He has his reasons.

“Since the time of the pyramids we've done it the same way. Now all of a sudden, construction is leading the technology charge. Even Procore is constantly changing, with constant product updates and the ability to have all your prints uploaded. Procore’s technology reads the prints and understands how to connect the pages. Even the technologies we have just keep moving faster and faster. It’s incredible.”