What I Learned from Participating on Hawaii’s Team in the Timber-Strong Design Build Competition

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Students Take On The Timber-Strong Design Build Competition Team

Allena is a senior at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa College of Engineering students working on the TImber-Strong Build who participated in this year’s Timber-Strong Design Build Competition. Besides getting hands-on experience from the competition’s project build, she cultivated better communication, project management, and leadership skills, too.  

2022 Timber Strong Design Build Team from left, Jacen Ancheta, Kenneth Nguyen, David Nakamura, Allena Novio, Isaiah Acorda, Ryan Montero, Travis Nitta, Micah Chinen, Regine Ragma, Edward Requilman Jr., Devon Hirata, An Riccardo Tran and Keith Maki (not pictured).
2022 Timber Strong Design Build Team from left, Jacen Ancheta, Kenneth Nguyen, David Nakamura, Allena Novio, Isaiah Acorda, Ryan Montero, Travis Nitta, Micah Chinen, Regine Ragma, Edward Requilman Jr., Devon Hirata, An Riccardo Tran and Keith Maki (not pictured).

Hey everyone! My name is Allena and I’m a Senior graduating in Spring 2022 from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. In high school, I found that math and science were my two favorite subjects. I also felt that taking on engineering would be an experience where I could be challenged and think creatively. Not only have I learned technical skills such as math, physics, structural analysis, and design, etc., but I have also learned skills that are pertinent to success in any career that includes communication, time management, attention to detail, and leadership skills. 

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa College of Engineering students working on the TImber-Strong Build
University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa College of Engineering students working on the TImber-Strong Build

I was a freshman when I first attended  ASCE’s Pacific South West Conference (PSWC) and competed in the Environmental Competition. I had the chance to witness the Timber-Strong Design Build competition as it went on and was drawn to the creativity of all of the different structures. I was determined to sign up for the Timber-Strong Design Build Competition the following year as a sophomore. Unfortunately, the in-person event did not occur for two consecutive years due to Covid. I was hopeful that during my senior year, our chapter would be able to participate in an in-person conference and that we would finally be able to compete and get the full experience of the design-build process.

 UH Mānoa’s ASCE student chapter on the jobsite
UH Mānoa’s ASCE student chapter on the jobsite

Our build team consists of myself as the project manager, Ryan Montero (build lead), Jacen Ancheta, Micah Chinen, Kenneth Nguyen, and Travis Nitta. However, much of our completed product could not have been achieved without the help of David Nakamura, Regine Ragma, Edward Requilman, Xiaolin Mai, Devon Hirata, An Riccardo Tran, Ricky Funai, and Keith Maki, who were assets in the prefabrication, design, aesthetics, and modeling of the structure. Without them, the build would not have been nearly so successful.

Students assembling the build
Students assembling the build

Fabrication for the build took approximately two months to complete. We’d started fabrication at the start of spring semester and had to have the structure ready to be shipped off to California by late February/early March. All of the fasteners and connectors were provided by our competition sponsor: Simpson StrongTie.

Students painting their Timber-Strong build
Students painting their Timber-Strong build

We procured our wood materials using two local lumber suppliers:, Hardware Hawaii and HPM, using our club funds, which we obtained through fundraisers and sponsorships. Materials for aesthetics such as paint, brushes, and painters’ tape were purchased from Home Depot using our club funds as well. Lastly, all of the tools used for the build were personal tools from members of our club.

Side of the build with tribal design with spear symbols

The exterior aesthetic of the structure was designed with the intent of representing Hawaiian culture. Each design on the wall has cultural ties. A tribal design with spear symbols scaling through the center, with shark teeth on the side, adorns the north elevation of this structure. The spear symbol represents life in that it is used to hunt on both land and sea. Shark teeth can be represented with a continuous triangle pattern.

Timber-Strong Hibiscuses and Sea Turtle Design
Timber-Strong Hibiscuses and Sea Turtle Design

The east and west elevations have hibiscuses displaying the beauty and joy of the state flower. A “honu” (sea turtle) is illustrated on the east elevation, which is a sacred symbol personifying longevity, safety, and “mana” (spiritual power). The minimal design depicts the subsistent lifestyle that Native Hawaiians once followed.  

Late night on the Timber-Strong build site
Late night on the Timber-Strong build site

There were several challenges our team had faced throughout the prefabrication and build of the structure. Several changes and alterations to the design were made as we were fabricating, which prolonged the fabrication process and we had to think of ways to account for the design changes without having to redo of the construction that had already been accomplished. All the while, we were still trying to finish on time and stay within budget.

Students inside the Timber-Strong building
Students inside the Timber-Strong building

Our team build captain, Ryan Montero, gave his take on the build: 

“Being the lead construction captain for the Timber-Strong event has put me through a roller coaster of emotions, especially during the final build. Trying to construct the two-story house with only a circular saw and a few hammers, as well as execute the plans in a short time frame due to the shipment process from Hawaii to California, was very stressful, but I’m very proud of our team for putting in countless hours of blood, sweat, smashed fingers, and tears. Not only did we work at least 5-10 hours daily, but we also had to balance the build with our school work and other curricular activities. As complicated as it was without the proper equipment to ease the labor (which meant, among other things, hammering each nail by hand), no one ever complained and everybody just kept working, which I really do appreciate.  

“Going into the conference, I didn’t have prior experience regarding leadership skills but Allena believed in me so I took the opportunity and it ended up very successful, as we won first in our division. Overall, throughout this experience I’ve gained countless skills I can apply to my role as a project engineer for a construction company, along with countless memories I’ll cherish for the rest of my life. So I would like to thank anyone and everyone who helped us as the Kauaian Sons strove for success.” 

University of Hawaii at Manoa Students Team photo

Overall, I gained a lot of valuable knowledge and experience from being a project manager in this competition. This project goes to show how important communication, problem solving, and time management are within engineering, and particularly with project/construction management. I have been under a structural internship and within the structural curriculum at school for over a year now. Doing this project allowed me to showcase and put some of the structural experience and knowledge I have into practice. However, being the project manager of my team for this competition has kindled a desire I didn’t know I had to explore project/construction management. My advice to anyone interested in pursuing engineering as a career is to take advantage of the resources available to you and grab all of the opportunities that come your way! 

Learn more about the other Timber-Strong Design Build teams and how Simpson Strong-Tie employee, Angel Leon helped co-found this event. 

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Allena Novio

Author: Allena Novio

Allena Novio is a student at University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa College of Engineering. She participated in the 2022 Timber-Strong Design Competition.

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