N.C. A&T Design Students Get Real-World Experience.

Students get a chance to observe design aspects during construction of two new dorms on campus.N.C.A&T is taking advantage of a campus construction project and allowing students to step out of the classroom and into the real world to learn the basics of design.

The architectural engineering and technology students push their blueprints and books aside every other week to observe two residence halls under construction. The $15 million, 806-bed project began in December and will be finished in August – ideal timing for student observation during the second semester, said Andy Perkins, A&T engineer and interim vice chancellor for facilities. Students are learning firsthand such construction details as designing a 12-inch-thick fire wall, implementing a sprinkler system and building two-exit corridors.

“We want to make the student experience at the university a collaborative experience,” Perkins said, “not only with the faculty members, but with the industry community as well.”

The classes usually meet three times a week in a classroom. But every other week, students leave that classroom for a construction trailer where A&T instructors and construction workers explain how design aspects work in the field.

Each class has a different project related to the on-site visits. The “Senior Project” class is designing a Guilford County middle school building. The juniors in “Design II” are designing their dream dorm. Both projects require the students to include everything that the residence halls feature: electrical, mechanical, structural and architectural components.

A construction management class also visits the job site to observe the construction process.

“They’re seeing the transference of the same types of issues here on this site,” Perkins said.

Every building needs to meet certain state codes, depending on its use, size and type, Robert Powell, assistant professor in the College of Engineering, told students Wednesday. Some buildings require more space for electrical distribution and plumbing. Others require thicker fire walls, depending on their use.

“Look at the site and think about that when you’re designing,” he told the students.

After a brief review of health and safety codes, Powell, Perkins and the seniors leave the trailer wearing hard hats to view the construction site, ask questions and listen to the experts. They hike through mud, sawdust and even a few loose pieces of wood to study how the design components work together.

“Those orange pipe were just installed,” said Rick Stokes, project manager for Maxam Construction co., as he points to the building’s new sprinkler system. The Kansas-based company is the project’s prime contractor.

Senior Leila Simaan is one of several students considering the building’s electrical engineering for her class’s plan. She said she didn’t realize her team had a role in the sprinkler system, which falls mainly under mechanical engineering team, until she toured the site on Wednesday.

“It helps you to get all aspects of it,” the architectural engineering major said of the tour. “You have to be able to apply everything. It all ties together.”

Along with benefiting the students, Stokes said the program benefits his company and its contractors. The interaction helps them learn what students want and need in educational buildings, he said.

Said Stokes, “One day, we’re going to be working for these guys.”

Greensboro News & Record

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