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March 20, 2012 4:04 PM

Students travel to New Orleans for build project

A group of Conestoga architecture students recently returned from New Orleans, where they spent their Study Week working on a build project with Habitat for Humanity.

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The team, consisting of 26 students and three faculty members from the college’s Architecture Construction Engineering Technology (ACET) program, was in the Big Easy from February 20 through February 26.

Accommodated by Habitat for Humanity, the group stayed in the city’s Carrollton District, one of the areas hit hardest by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. To date, only 30 per cent of the homes in the district have been restored, while many remain abandoned.

Julianne Campbell, an ACET student in her third and final year of the advanced diploma program, said she was surprised by how poor some of the living conditions still were.

“I was amazed at the state of different areas and what some people had to live in. It was a big eye opener to see what, and where, some people call home,” she said. “We are very lucky here in Canada.”

Over the course of their three-day build, the team was able to lay the floor, erect the walls, sheath the building and start the siding. On the first day of construction, they came within 20 minutes of breaking the record for the fastest construction of a floor.

Campbell attributed much of the team’s productivity and efficiency to the extensive training they received at Conestoga.

“Through our couple of years in the program, we have learned all about the construction of houses and buildings and we were all knowledgeable about the structure of every component of the home,” she said. “Our program also prepared us in all the terminology used in home construction.”

Campbell said the trip made for a great experience working with a large team in a real-world work environment.

“It was awesome seeing all 26 students and 3 teachers working together to get the job done. It was also a great learning aid for our program and a great hands-on experience for students who had never been on site before.”

The ACET program arranges field trips for its students annually, alternating each year between architectural tours and social good projects.

Randall Hadley, a professor in the ACET program, said trips like the one to New Orleans give students an opportunity to learn outside of the classroom and experience life beyond Canada.

“There is a lot of world to see and we like to expose our students to that whenever possible.”

Hadley said that the annual field trips serve two basic ideals.

“The first to expose our students to the built environment outside of Canada and the second is to expose our students to opportunities to use their training and skills to help others.”

In the students’ down time, they also got to experience Mardi Gras in the French Quarter, visit Brad Pitt’s “Make it Right” development in the Lower Ninth Ward, and take a bayou boat tour on which they saw snakes, alligators and bald eagles.

Not lost on the students throughout the week, however, was the human element of why they were there.

According to Campbell, “the trip was a great eye-opener in how with just a small effort and a few days we can make a wonderful difference in a family’s life.”

It is also an experience Hadley said will have a lasting impact on the students.

“Students who went to New Orleans will no doubt continue to participate in Habitat for Humanity builds upon graduation,” he said.

The ACET program’s next social good project will be a little bit closer to home, when it participates in the fifth annual Canstruction competition in support of the Waterloo Region Food Bank. The competition will be held from March 9 to March 18 at Conestoga Mall.

Story by Ryan Bowman, first-year student in Conestoga's Print-Journalism program.

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