Teenagers across the country see plenty of virtual reality. From video games to iPhone Snapchat filters, it’s easy to find ways the virtual world interacts with the real world.
For 18 lucky Benson Polytechnic High School students, the world of virtual reality had some serious real-world implications last month, as they saw how 3D modeling, computer-aided design and other technologies have helped the builders of the Hyatt Regency Portland at the Oregon Convention Center.
In early May, representatives from Mortenson Construction invited the Benson students for a look at how 3D technology is used to coordinate construction within 1/8 of an inch of accuracy on the 14-story project. This was followed by a hard hat site tour and overview of the methods used to make the simulated work a physical reality.
Assisted by technology developed with the gaming industry, 3D technology has revolutionized construction, from blueprints to planning.
“We virtually build the building to practice before we build,” said Mike Clifford, Mortenson’s construction executive on the project.
Dom Daniels, a construction coordinator on the project, said he wouldn’t have dreamed of being on a project like the Hyatt Regency Portland in his youth.
“I did not want to go to college,” Daniels said. “I was playing Call of Duty and realized it was the same technology for CAD illustration and planning.”
Clifford and his team shared their career paths with details regarding the education requirements and on-the-job experience which illuminated multiple career paths in the construction industry.
"There is a path for everybody to get involved. There are options in engineering, architecture, craft labor and construction management. There is something for everybody," Clifford said.
Richard Weber, an instructor at Benson, graduated from the school in 1975 and recalls not fully visualizing what a career in the various construction trades may look like. As a result, he is committed to providing hands-on experiences to construction opportunities, including building residential homes.
He was delighted the students had an opportunity to see one of the largest projects in Portland – at times, more than 300 workers a day are working on the site, with a multitude of different trades on hand to teach coordination on a project of this scale.
Prior to this experience and site visit, Mortenson worked with Michael Burch with the Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters to have one of its members speak about being a union craftsman to the Benson students in their classroom. The discussion provided an opportunity for Benson students to see the options available for them in the commercial construction industry and build anticipation for the visit.
As the scheduled 1-hour question-and-answer session extended into a second hour, students continued to pour questions on the project experts. Questions ranged from wanting to know what happened if people didn't show up on time to how a project falling behind on the schedule could be caught up, and the most pragmatic – “how much will I get paid.” The students heard how the construction industry provides ample opportunities to earn a good salary with or without a college degree.