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PSU School of Construction team earns national recognition

A group of seniors in the PSU School of Construction have been hard at work creating projects around the community, resulting in national recognition. 

In 2019, one team constructed a bridge on the Ruby Jack Trail located north of Joplin. Members of the team include Tiara Ewy, Travis Solander, Mollie Currid, and Sean Lohman. The team of PSU students earned the award for Outstanding Student Chapter of the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) based on their work.  

“The most rewarding part was just seeing all the people that were involved and wanted to work together to create something to better the community,” said Solander, a PSU graduate and superintendent for the project. “Being a part of it and being able to help them, and use the skill set that I had and that my team had, and help create this for our community.” 

The projects were evaluated on community benefit, technical skill, professional growth, and the ability to describe projects in a detailed and precise manner, among other areas. The team will be recognized at the AGC’s 100th National Convention April 1-4 in Denver. 

“The most rewarding part of all of this is the awesome publicity that the School of Construction is getting for this,” said Currid, a PSU graduate and project engineer. “The program is amazing and people in the university don’t always get to see the cool stuff we do. The professors are getting some of the praise that they deserve for all the additional time they take out of their personal lives to help us students out with projects like this. The department is really great at implementing real world scenarios into classroom settings (i.e. Senior Projects) and I see that even more now that I am in the real world.” 

Their mission was to build a bridge over an icy and active creek, and the team was met with challenges during their building process. 

“The biggest challenge was trying to figure out the logistics of the project,” said Ewy, a PSU graduate and field engineer. “It was located a mile down an eight foot wide biking and walking trail and we had to get concrete trucks and pump trucks and heavy equipment down there… that took a lot of planning time before hand.” 

The navigation to the site was not their only issue during the project, but the team worked to create a safe solution to all of their obstacles. The bridge was about eleven feet from the water, and because of early spring time weather, the creek was flowing and icy.  

“There was no way you were (going to) stand on it,” Solander said. “Tiara Ewy was able to work with one of the instructors to come up with a scaffolding system that was basically self-supporting off of the bridge beam… and the safety department worked with us to make sure all the safety requirements were being met.” 

All four students were enrolled in the “Senior Projects” course before graduating in May and are members of the AGC Student Chapter. 

“So going in to building the project, we decided that we wanted to make it an AGC project,” Ewy said. “So everyone who worked on the project, all the students and then every member of the team, was an AGC member. At the beginning, we decided we’re (going to) do this project to submit it for the award and hopefully win, so that was… the end goal the whole time building the project. We ended up submitting it this summer and then found out about a month ago we won, so that was really awesome to hear.” 

The Senior Projects course is required within the construction management program at PSU. The students have completed over $1 million worth of projects in the community since the early 2000s.  

“Two of the projects for this semester are on PSU campus,” said Shannon Nicklaus, course instructor. “One is a sidewalk for the Bicknell performing arts center and the other is part of the parking lot at the Kansas Technology Center.” 

When carrying out these projects, the construction management students volunteer their time in order to create and manage the project. Students work closely with the city and other organizations to determine what Pittsburg needs and how they can help. 

“Not all projects are projects that actually get built,” Nicklaus said. “Some of them are what we consider to be in the ‘design’ phase. This semester we have three projects… All three of these are for the city of Pittsburg.” 

In the past, PSU construction students have also worked with professional engineers, PSU’s electrical program, and masonry workers from Fort Scott Community College. These collaborations allow the construction management students to fully carry out their plans for the community.  

“I would also say that from their perspective it is learning, but also giving back to the community,” Nicklaus said. “It is neat to see when they come back to PSU and visit the sites of their projects. They truly do impact the community.” 

The team will present their project at the 100th AGC National Convention in April, along with 11 other chapters from all over the country. 

“I’d like to thank our owners for being so great with us,” Ewy said. “We definitely couldn’t have done it without them and they were a big part of making our project successful. Working with us… being students and not professional industry people, they… took a chance with us and worked with us and helped us however they could. We ended up giving them a project that was everything they wanted, everything they were looking for.” 

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