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Murray Edwards College
University of Cambridge

Science at Cambridge: Toronto here we come - Global Student Challenge success

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    23 May

    Hi, I’m Rachel, a third year Engineering student, specialising in Civil and Structural Engineering. I’d like to share with you an exciting opportunity I was given earlier this year.

    On 30th November, I was at the engineering department for a coursework day (a pretty exciting opportunity in itself; Constructionarium, which is a project where you actually go and build a structure, on a real building site, out of concrete steel, etc.). At the end of the session, a fourth year student came in to talk about a competition he’d been involved with and done well in the previous year, the Global Student Challenge.

    Global Student Challenge is a competition run every year by the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB), which involves running a virtual construction company for a number of periods, each simulating a quarter of a year. As a team of four managing directors, you form a company strategy and decide how to run your company, each of you responsible for a different aspect of the company, such as finances or bidding and estimating (to decide which work you should try to take on). Around 60 teams compete each year, from all over the world, which is a pretty staggering thought itself, and the top 6 teams qualify for the finals. Global Student Challenge is the students’ version of the MERIT competition, which teams of professionals from engineering companies from all over the world compete in, so within the construction industry, it’s quite well known.

    I’ve never taken part in an engineering-based competition before but I decided to sign up. I thought, if nothing else, I can put it on my CV that I’ve taken part, even if I don’t learn anything. I joined a team with three other students, none of whom I had met before, and we started preparation, unsure of what to expect. Leading up to the competition, the game was open for a few weeks so you could submit trial runs to learn how the game works and what to avoid for the real thing. Learning how to play a game with maybe a hundred decisions to make was slightly daunting and our trials came back fairly poorly, so we weren’t very hopeful, but we did our homework and read through the tutorial guides CIOB sent out to us in the hope that we might not come last.

    Astonishingly, we came out second after the first week! We thought it was some fluke, but then we came second again. The next four weeks we consistently hit the top spot and couldn’t quite believe it! There had been moments of desperation along the way, thinking we’d messed up as we didn’t manage to take up some of the largest jobs and our finances weren’t in the best shape. We’ve now qualified for the finals of the competition, which are being held in Toronto this year in July! All the teams coming into the final are very strong and the competition runs slightly differently from now, so we don’t know what the next couple of months will bring us but we’re confident that we at least have a chance. Wish us luck!

    We’ve achieved so much more than I could have imagined when I first signed up in November. I’ve improved my time management skills, as the competition took place in the six weeks running up to our exams, so efficiency was key, and my communication skills have come on in leaps and bounds as well; the four of us live in different parts of the country and we were at home for the Easter vacation during the contest; thanks heavens for Facebook messenger! I would recommend everyone to take up all the opportunities they’re given! You’ll be amazed what you can learn, who you’ll meet and how much time you have in each day. Today is the start of the rest of your life; make it what you want it to be!

    If anyone wants to read more about CIOB or Global Student Challenge, visit:

    Rachel Attwood
    Third year Engineering Student, Murray Edwards College