A skyscraper can take years to build, but a group of A&M construction science students only had four days to build a replica of the Gherkin, a historical London skyscraper.              

The students traveled abroad to the United Kingdom this summer to participate in Constructionism — a program focused on providing hands-on construction experience for students and professionals. In this program, students create scaled-down versions of civil engineering projects all around the world, giving them a chance to put their classroom knowledge  to use. 

Steve Rodgers, construction law and risk management professor in the Department of Construction Science, 

said the project coordinators were impressed with the amount of knowledge the A&M students had compared to others who had participated in the same program.

“The English workers were absolutely in awe that our students knew what they were doing,” Rodgers said. “There are students over there who are in engineering or architecture and they don’t know what end of the hammer to hold, much less how to put up a structure.”

Dayle Alfaro, construction science senior, said while the group was prepared, they were expected to produce a replica with minimal guidance, with a short deadline and on a budget.

“It was definitely a sink or swim moment,” Alfaro said. “We were thrown out there and told we had to do this.”

Chris Schultz, construction science senior, said shortage of time was a major issue in the project.

“They handed us a set of plans and said, ‘Build this,’” Schultz said. “So we had to estimate all of it, price it, quantify it and then we had to sit down with the owner and get the schedule and budget approved before we could even start construction ... There was a time crunch.”

Schultz, who was tasked with concrete pouring, said the project was a much more difficult job than he had imagined.

“It also gives you appreciation for the craftsman,” Schultz said. “Since I poured the concrete, which was extremely difficult, I gained more respect for the people who are out on the streets working with concrete on a daily basis in huge amounts.”

Rodgers said he was pleased with the outcome of the project and believed it was because the students were trained in the classes for these situations. 

“So our students wound up going out there without any fear of getting dirty. They had already had classes such as estimating or budgeting, scheduling and safety,” Rodgers said. “They were so surprised that we came in under budget and finished in less time than scheduled ... Usually they tear the structure down as soon as the students leave, but this time they left it for the rest of the year.”

Alfaro said she values this experience because it gave her an experience many people do not have, boosting her resume, along with her respect for the construction industry workers.

“Eighteen people out of the entire department so far can put that on their resume and now I am one of them,” Alfaro said. “The newfound respect for the actual people doing the labor, was a big outcome. A lot of times, most people in construction science go straight to the office, being the boss. They have never really had to do the work and realize how difficult is actually is. It is an experience everyone should have to know what it feels like.”

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