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Morrisville State College Students Build House

Residential construction and wood products technology programs will use experience as a laboratory
MORRISVILLE, N.Y.—As he stood in the blazing sun wiping sweat and dirt from his brow, Phil Cady had no regrets about trading in his cooking utensil s for a tool belt, hammer and nails.

The Morrisville State College student left his job as a cook to spend his summer break building a house for college experience instead.

It was a worthy trade-off.

Cady, of Syracuse, a residential construction student, was among Morrisville State College students and faculty who built the shell of a house on Clover Hill Road in Eaton this summer.

The house is a project through the college’s residential construction program which teaches students about construction management and provides them with an opportunity to gain hands-on experience in an actual setting.

For Cady and Heather Ray, of Oxford, an architectural studies and design major, the experience was a full-time paid internship that also earned them college credit.

“I specifically chose this as a summer job so I could learn more about constructing a house,” Ray said. “I wanted the experience of being involved in the building process.”

Megan Maszczak, of Waterville, a graduate of Morrisville’s architectural studies and design program, also assisted with the summer project.

“Being involved in the actual building process has given me a better understanding of architecture,” she said.

Students helped build the house literally from the ground up, assisting with site layout, building the basement, installing the footing forms, placing concrete and steel reinforcing in the forms, installing the drainage system, installing the girder and floor system and setting the walls, trusses and roofing. They even learned how to mix sand, masonry cement and water in the correct proportions for the foundation blocks.

The 2,100-square-foot, ranch-style house located on a parcel of land owned by the Morrisville College Foundation, features three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen, dining room, living room with a fireplace, two-car attached garage and a full basement.

It is the second Barden Home, of The Barden and Robeson Corporation of Tully, N.Y., built by Morrisville State College students. The first house, a cape-style adjacent to the newest project, is currently for sale.

Students were not the only ones who devoted their summer to working on the residential construction project.

Faculty members, Bruce Revette, assistant professor of residential construction, and Brian J. Kelly, Jr., associate professor of architectural studies and design, supervised and worked alongside them.

Although summer work on the house has been completed and Cady and Ray have resumed their regular class schedules, there is still much work to be done on the house. The remaining construction will be completed during various classroom laboratories in the fall of 2005 and spring of 2006, providing students in a variety of programs with hands-on experience.

During the school year, Revette, professor Wayne Hausknecht and assistant professor Lenno Mbaga, both of the wood products technology program, will supervise students during their re spective labs to complete the house.

Residential construction majors taking classes in business, masonry, plumbing, heating and wood products will be among students practicing the skills they have learned in the classroom while completing laboratory work at the house.

As one of their projects, students in the heating class will be involved with every phase of installing the heating system, from calculating heat loss in each zone and piping natural gas into the basement to installing the boiler.

Students in other programs, including architectural studies and design, landscape architectural studies, horticulture, and wood products technology will also be working on the project.

Once it is completed, the house, which is expected to be ready by the end of May 2006, will be put up for sale.

In addition to working on that project, students will be placing finishing touches on the first house.

Wood products technology students are building the kitchen cabinets and counter tops and will be installing them thi s semester, while students taking the Landscape, Planning and Design I course will be landscaping based on designs they completed last semester.

The residential construction house-building project is an educational tool that provides students with experience and skills necessary to gain a competitive edge in the job market, Revette said.

“Attempting to describe how to complete a task in lecture doesn’t compare to actually doing it in the field where it needs to be done correctly the first time,” Revette said.

“Building the house provides us an opportunity to stress workmanship, personal responsibility and problem solving,” Hausknecht said.

Cady hopes to use his experience when he is in business building houses some day.

“I’ve done some finish work on houses before,” he said, “but this really showed me all of the different things that go into building a home.”

Students, for example, learn how each trade—framing, plumbing, heating and masonry—is dependent on another, Revette said. They also learn about different materials that are used and how to assemble them.

“This whole experience is extremely beneficial to students,” Kelly said. “It gives them an understanding of how all of the pieces fit together.”

It also boosts self-confidence.

“In essence, the students are working for a customer, whether it is the college or the individual, who eventually buys the house,” Hausknecht said. “I find that causes them to take a lot more pride in their work.”

They also learned how to work as a team.

“Students take great pride in building the house,” Revette said. “I think they were surprised at how well they worked together to accomplish the task.”

Despite working through one of the hottest summers on record and even an occasional rain shower, students said they wouldn’t trade their experience for anything.

“I wouldn’t hesitate to do it all over again,” Cady said.

The residential construction program is a ThinkPad program where the use of laptop computers is integrated into course work. The curriculum is designed to provide graduates with the background, experience and knowledge of materials and techniques for a successful career in any segment of the re sidential construction industry. Hands-on experience is emphasized through course work in construction techniques, energy systems, sanitation, masonry systems, foundation concepts and surveying.

In addition to technical skills, the program is designed to develop business skills by exposing students to course work in business law, accounting, employee supervision and public speaking. Graduates receive an associate in occupational studies (A.O.S.) degree.

Morrisville State College offers 12 bachelor degrees and a wide variety of associate degrees and options. Considered to be one of the most technologically advanced colleges in the nation for its ThinkPad University program and wireless technology initiative, the college recently became the first in the nation to comprehensively replace landlines in residence halls with individual cellular phones. Morrisville State College was also chosen as one of the top five colleges in the nation for campus activities by Campus Activities magazine. The Morrisville State College Norwich Campus offers programs in business, transfer, technologies, liberal arts/education transfer, and nursing to Chenango County area residents and employers.