Construction model pieces

How do you convert a class that requires students to construct actual playhouses and physical models to all take place off campus? The answer lies in tactful innovation, modeling programs, and origami.

In the Department of Design and Construction Management, Finishing Systems (CONST210) was one of a few lab-based classes adjusted to be completed remotely this semester. Normally, this class would apply students’ knowledge gained in lecture by building a playhouse throughout the semester. Now, the students learn some of the same skills through watching building tutorials of the playhouse and simulating the experience through paper replications.

Moving remotely gave Ron Harker, the instructor of Finishing Systems, the opportunity to create tutorial videos of the playhouse building process. These tutorials are currently used to instruct his remote students, and they will continue to be used even after students return to the classroom.

“In the lab, I normally do demonstrations to show students the next thing they are going to do. Then, I turn them loose,” Harker said. “We create two buildings, and trying to keep both on track without a lot of mistakes is a huge challenge. With these demonstrations on video in future semesters, students can work at their own pace and I’m free to keep an eye on what’s going on and hopefully have a lot less mistakes.”

Although they aren’t in the lab, students still have the opportunity to understand different materials and how they are installed. Instead of using the real materials, however, they use paper. For example, when students were learning about roof drip edge, they were assigned to obtain paper and make the necessary cuts and folds to mimic a metallic roof drip edge.

In class, they followed along with the instructor through a document camera and learned how all the pieces interact and connect with one another. The students have light-heartedly referred to this as “drip edge origami.”

Another lab-based class, Framing Systems (CONST120) has also adjusted from constructing wood scale models to digital models of buildings. The students now use a 3D modeling tool called Sketchup and follow tutorials by their instructor through Loom. Like a physical model, they are able to create separate pieces before connecting them.

Ron Kinville, an instructor of Framing Systems, feels that it has been a success and that his students are having a valuable experience this semester.

“I spent most of the three hours watching and listening as students helped their fellow students solve their challenges with the project,” Kinville said. “It was great! Cool new tricks were discovered and shared with the whole class. I learned at least five new things from my students today. This was ‘teach one another’ at its finest! I’m so glad we were forced into doing this!”