Students run the best construction firm in the world – virtually

The world’s top building firms may want to talk to four students from Australia after they beat off competition from 20 countries to take top spot in an online construction business simulation game.

The unique, six-month competition tested their business skills and required them to make decisions on staffing levels, bidding, managing cash flow and even seeking investment opportunities.

The students, from Australia’s RMIT University, beat university teams from 20 countries in the contest, organised by the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB), called the Global Student Challenge.

The four, Frederick William Austin, Luke Christopher Mitrione, Joel Mitchell and Oscar Macleod Savage, will split the £2,000 cash prize and will be entered into an industry mentoring programme. (They are pictured above with tutors Mark Vines and Dr Peter Wong.)

The competition took place over six rounds and involved teams from 20 countries including Australia, Hong Kong, the UK and the US.

The winners narrowly beat finalists from Glasgow Caledonian University and the University of Hong Kong.

The contest used Windows-based MERIT software (for Management Enterprise Risk Innovation and Teamwork), first developed at Loughborough University in 1988 to train young professionals as part of modules in their degree programmes.

The CIOB says that each team’s members were assigned different managerial functions to help foster responsibility and team working, with the success or failure of the simulated company often dependent on effective interaction between the different roles.

The students became the virtual company’s board of directors. Two local non-executives could be appointed to advise them, but these non-execs were not allowed to participate actively in the team’s decision making.

During the qualifying rounds, teams played against the computer, with each game lasting eight weeks. Each week they were required to make a submission that covered three months of "game time", which meant the game lasted two years in total.

During the second round, the game was rigged so that there were fewer jobs to bid for to encourage greater competition among the teams to win virtual projects.

The top six best-performing teams in the competition then went head-to-head at a final staged in Hong Kong last week.

"RMIT University have shown that they have what is needed to thrive in construction and that their talents would be an enviable asset for any business in any sector," said Alan Crane, Past President of the CIOB. "You are only as good as your competition and all the teams offered a serious challenge."

The sponsors for Global Student Challenge 2014 were Hong Kong’s Chun Wo Development Holdings and Singapore’s Yau Lee Construction.

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