Forum showcases new construction technology for ECU students

Hammers, nails and screwdrivers remain basic tools for any construction worker. However, the toolbelt of today’s construction project manager can include laser scanners, drones, robots and artificial intelligence.

Matt Chance, the chief operating officer of Advanced Exterior Systems and member of the Department of Construction Management Advisory Board, speaks during the CONTECH Forum.

Students in the East Carolina University Department of Construction Management had a chance to learn about the latest technology from industry representatives during the annual CONTECH Forum on Thursday in the Main Campus Student Center.

The department’s industry advisory board brought in workers from six companies for the five-hour event while providing lunch and door prizes to the students attending.

“The mission is to expose the students and some of the faculty and staff to some of the things that they might not have been exposed to yet in the classroom to better prepare them for when they get out there in the industry,” said event host Matt Chance, an advisory board member and chief operating officer of Advanced Exterior Systems. “When they hear about new technologies, innovations and equipment, we want them to have some knowledge about it.”

As an example, Cody Whitelock, virtual construction manager at Barnhill Contracting Company, showcased a laser scanner that is capable of measuring to the millimeter. He also discussed technologies such as photogrammetry and drones in the construction industry.

He mentioned how laser scans detected floor and joist issues in renovation projects and how a drone can be used to pinpoint the safest place for a construction crane at a job site.

“We have to be really accurate in construction,” Whitelock told the nearly 100 students who attended. “Knowing these things, we can make better decisions moving forward that can save time and save money.”

He said as technology has become more readily available, the construction industry is continuing to adapt and develop ways to use it.

“A big component of the technology is where it’s going,” Whitelock said. “In the last 10 years, technology has increased, but now what we’re seeing is just not individual technology but how technology is starting to merge together and really work as one.”

He said Barnhill jumped at the opportunity to showcase the company’s latest technology, which included a $75,000 laser scanner.

“The big thing is to let the students understand the career choices that are out there in the industry,” he said. “Regardless of whether they’re coming out with a design background or construction background, it’s wide open to be part of any part of that industry that they want to. And sharing the information about the new technology can excite them.”

Connor Ryan, a junior construction management major from Clayton, hopes to be a project manager and perhaps own his own company one day. He felt a need to attend the CONTECH Forum.

“I just wanted to learn about some of the advancements in the industry,” he said.

Mackenzie Tuner, a junior construction management major from Roxboro, busily took notes during the presentations.

“It has been mind-blowing how much detail you can get from technology,” Turner said. “I didn’t realize that with the laser scanning they can actually see into a building and see how the structure has changed over time.”

Turner, who is president of ECU’s Women in Construction and Industry student organization, took advantage of a canceled class to attend the forum.

“I am very curious and like to learn about new things,” she said. “I wanted to come and check this out before I had to go to my next class.”

Chance said the advisory board was excited to put on the event for the students.

“We have some elite professionals presenting here,” said Chance, a 1988 ECU graduate in construction management. “This is our third year, and the first two years were incredible. We appreciate the university helping us put this event together. I think it speaks volumes about the mission of East Carolina and the passion we have for our students and their well-being.”

Student Mackenzie Turner, a junior construction management major from Roxboro, takes notes during the CONTECH Forum.

Cody Whitelock, virtual construction manager at Barnhill Contracting Company, speaks during the CONTECH Forum.