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ACE on target at CCA

Innovative student-professional collaboration to bring new building to CCA campus next spring
Keith Johnk of Shive-Hattery guides ACE students in a design brainstorming session for a stand-alone classroom building, which will be built on the Clear Creek Amana campus for ACE and other technology and industrial classes through Kirkwood’s academy programs. (photo courtesy of Joe Greathouse)

OXFORD — Last March, Joe Greathouse, assistant professor in construction management at Kirkwood Community College, introduced to the Clear Creek Amana (CCA) school board the idea of an innovative educational experience.
Greathouse spoke of Kirkwood’s Architectural, Construction and Engineering (ACE) academy, which prepares students for two- or four-year degrees, a trade program or even entry into the construction field by providing mentors who work directly with students.
CCA’s first foray into ACE has involved a hands-on construction class, architectural and STEM (Science, Technology, English and Math) engineering classes, and Project Lead the Way.
The goal of the program is to provide a pathway for high school students to explore the industry and gain experience along with college credit. Mentorship by local professionals, who with the students and work hand-in-hand with them, is vital. Initially, students traveled to Kirkwood’s Cedar Rapids campus to participate in a pilot project known as SHEP, or Sustainable Housing for Educational Projects. In its first year, the project proved both popular and successful.
The next step was to take the program directly to the various school districts.
Greathouse proposed a new pilot project in which CCA students and ACE students from across Kirkwood’s seven-county area would design and construct a new classroom building on the CCA campus in Tiffin.
Once the students finalized a design, professionals such as Keith Johnk of Shive-Hattery– the district’s architectural and engineering firm– would polish and tweak it, prepare the necessary documents to obtain building permits and, essentially, “make it buildable,” Johnk said. With the design in place, students would provide much of the labor to build the facility, which would not only provide a home for ACE programming at CCA, but would also be available for other STEM offerings as well.
Since that meeting, Greathouse has been lining up donations from area businesses to finance the project, and the students have begun visualizing and designing the structure. Next spring, the new building will be erected along the north side of the middle school.
Greathouse gave the board an update at its regular monthly meeting Monday, Nov. 17, at Clear Creek Elementary in Oxford.
A kick-off meeting was held in October at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, with 154 students representing 21 school districts and 43 mentors in attendance. Greathouse noted it was the largest kick-off of any such program in the country.
“Nobody’s ever done it this big,” he said. Preliminary work was started on the design without any parameters. The results were non-traditional, he said.
“It doesn’t look like a school. They wanted something different, they wanted a space they could be creative in, that they could build in,” Greathouse said.
A second meeting was held Nov. 13 at the Cedar Rapids Public Library with a slightly smaller group. Groups of 15-20 students were teamed up with five or six mentors for a 3:1 ratio, staying within the ACE recommendation of no greater than a 5:1 ratio. The students took walking tours of construction sites around Cedar Rapids’s downtown area before breaking out pencils and papers for further design work. This time, students were given some of the necessary parameters, such as the soil at the Tiffin site necessitating a one-story building, and a limit to 15-16,000 square feet.
“It’s been interesting,” Johnk said of the design process, noting that even with the practical limitations, the students’ creativity was virtually unlimited. One student suggested having each wall constructed of different materials, such as straw bales covered in stucco, for example.
The current plan calls for the building to be completely self-contained, so it will not draw on the middle school’s electrical, plumbing or heating systems. Geothermal and solar panels have been considered for the structure, and Johnk said all possibilities for heating/cooling and energy would be considered to determine what is not only feasible, but practical.
A third meeting was set for Tuesday, December 9 at the high school, with the public invited to attend and observe. The goal was to finalize the design and turn it over to Shive-Hattery. The fourth and final meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 13, at The Hotel at Kirkwood. At that meeting, student involvement in the actual construction process will be discussed.
Greathouse told the board he had secured roughly $200,000 in monetary and in-kind (materials and or labor) contributions toward the estimated $300,000 project. The final cost estimate will not be known until the design is finalized, but Greathouse said he was not worried about the funding. The best bet, he told the board, was for him to continue seeking contributions.
“All signs are good,” Greathouse said. “The ultimate purpose is not to build a building; it’s to get kids ready for the workforce, which is why businesses are so willing to donate.”