Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Ricks Center students show dogged determination and can-do spirit

When third and fourth graders at DU’s Ricks Center studied architectural design, they decided to get some hands-on experience of the four-legged kind.

The first step for the 16 students in Gay Carlson’s class was to talk to an expert:  Keith Conner, who owns an architectural design firm in Denver. He walked the students through the structural design process — from conceptual drawings and layout to the finished product. The students were assigned a “client” — a medium-sized golden retriever who needed a new doghouse.

“Each student created an individual design and scaled their design to meet the needs and specifications of their dog client,” Carlson says. “The students created some amazing and elaborate designs. Each student presented their ideas to the rest of the class. Together we voted and agreed on the design, materials and function of the doghouse.”

Conner worked with the students to finalize a design and construct the doghouse.

“We started with designs that were essentially mini-houses for the students — but they were not practical for a doghouse,” Conner says. “We ended up with a tetradecahedron, or a 14-sided, dog house. And each student had an element of their original design and original paint colors incorporated into the final design.”

Ricks faculty member Joe Blackman and several dedicated parents helped Conner and the students build the doghouse.

It was work, but fun work, according to the students. Students Erin, Aidan, Mark and Haley all agreed that building the house was the “best part of the project.”

Mark sees this as his first project on his road to becoming an engineer.

“I have always been interested in designing and building and someday I would like to be an engineer,” he says.  He says he doesn’t plan on building doghouses but is thinking about building bridges and highways.

“Assembling has been the most difficult part of the project because there were so many pieces to put together,” Erin adds.

Aiden appreciated having a real architect helping them.

“Keith helped us to understand what it means to work as a team,” he says. “We couldn’t have done this without his help.”

Haley agrees.  “Putting it all together was hard, but also fun because we all worked together,” she says.

Who will be the lucky dog to get the doghouse?  Haley has a dog, a golden retriever named Toby, but the doghouse is not for him, she notes. The doghouse will be auctioned off later this year at The Ricks Center.

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And if constructing a doghouse wasn’t enough, the same students took on the American flag.

The students recently took part in the Salvation Army’s “Canstruction” event at Colorado Mills Mall in Golden, Colo. The students collected more than 500 cans of food and created a waving American flag dubbed “God Bless Ameri-CAN.” They were the youngest participants in the event.

The flag design received the “Best Use of Labels” award. The cans were donated to the Salvation Army.

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