Spencer Hinkle, building trades instructor, oversees the three-year, $700,000 National Science Foundation grant to develop the "Framing Student Success" project at the Rock Creek Campus.
During the last three summers, the Building Construction Technology program designed "green" structures where local high school students learned about green construction from faculty and area experts. Last year, students completed work on a straw bale weather station sealed with clay. It retains heat in the winter and cool air in the summer and costs about a fraction of traditional home building techniques.
"I am always in awe of the creative designs these kids come up with," said Hinkle. "Watching how engaged they are in building their models and presenting their designs reinforces my belief that meaningful hands-on learning gets results."
This year, 12 students and five high school teachers worked hard to make a garden shed for the Rock Creek Campus community garden. The structure is temporary and can be moved depending on campus needs. Unlike the weather station, the garden shed was built with a technique that mixes straw with clay. PCC construction students built the frame for the high school students, who then filled in the rest with the straw-clay mixture.
"It’s something that is easily demonstrated," said Lydia Doleman, the lead BCT faculty on the project. "It blends modern construction technology with alternative construction. It’s a natural building technique anyone can do and is a great hands-on learning project for the students."
In "Framing Student Success," the high school participants start out designing plans for their project and make miniature models to present to PCC faculty. The second year, they build the project and in the final year they participate in an internship within the construction industry.
"The best part about this is that we’re actually building a building out of mud and it really works," said Kyle Brainard, a 17-year-old student at Franklin High School. "I like the idea of ‘green’ buildings."
And the teachers work alongside students in building the structures, learning methods to show their own classes. Dave Kaechele, who is an automotive and wood-working teacher at Sandy High School, has been impressed.
"It’s been great to learn about the different materials, methods and chemistry involved in building these structures," Kaechele said. "It takes a lot less money and less labor than conventional construction. It’s really an inexpensive way to make a home. It’s also energy efficient. I plan to use this information and build a structure similar to this in my class."