Nearly 2,000 members and guests attended the Mechanical Contractors Association of America’s annual convention, March 20-24 in Orlando, Fla. Leadership and perseverance through adversity were the underlying themes as illustrated by its various keynote speakers: football star and philanthropist Peyton Manning, basketball star and entrepreneur Shaquille O’Neal, Navy SEAL Rob O’Neill, Paralympic snowboarder Amy Purdy, women’s rights activist Shannon Galpin and wheelchair athlete Chad Hymas.

Education sessions focused on building companies for future success such as working with younger generations, recruiting and retaining workers, the core fundamentals of business success, negotiating the collective bargaining process, lean construction and new construction technology.

The technology discussions ranged from James Benham’s presentation on data security for contracting businesses to emerging technologies used on the jobsite — from Brian Helm, president of Mechanical, Inc.; Chris Haslinger, director of training at the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States, Canada; and Sean McGuire, MCAA’s director of construction technology.

Helm, McGuire and Haslinger talked about new and existing technologies that mechanical contractors are using on the jobsite today — building information modeling, virtual reality, augmented reality, 3D scanning, mobile devices and BIM-to-field software.

Augmented reality is similar to virtual reality, except it exists in the current environment, Haslinger noted; it adds more information on top of the current environment such as schematics to enhance real-time knowledge on the jobsite. The UA developed an app that allows users to see drawings in 3D and view install videos.

“This type of technology grabs the attention of people at job fairs,” he said. “It’s a great recruiting tool and emphasizes technology in the trades.”

During the convention, United Association General President William P. Hite received MCAA’s first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award from MCAA President Steve Dawson in recognition of his many contributions to the industry, including transforming the UA into a progressive and influential union.

The 2017 convention will be March 5-9 in San Diego.

For more on MCAA 2016, visit