Participation, Performance & Playfulness – U-LEAF

This post should be titled:

3 Reasons You Should Hire a U-LEAF Crew Member on the Spot

As far as enriching, hands-on, fun-filled, summer adventures go, this one was probably the best. After my third year teaching the AVL DesignBuild Studio with Luke W. Perry and the Asheville Design Center, the 2015 unfolding LEAF community arts stage was by far the most challenging and rewarding design/build studio we’ve ever had. According to our 13 architecture, landscape architecture, sustainable building technologies, management, urban planning, and mechatronics engineering students, the AVL DesignBuild Studio delivered one of the best learning experiences for community-driven design.

In summary, as developed by the students, the U-LEAF’s tagline is: Participation, Performance, and Playfulness. The U-LEAF:

  • creates an unfolding stage that can go anywhere
  • is safe, functional, and engaging
  • is adaptable
  • can be set up by two trained volunteers in 90 minutes
  • meets DOT/trailer size and weight restrictions

After one final week of punch list (and then another week of punch list, thank you local students, instructor Luke Perry, ADC interns, and ADC/MHO Rose Fellow Geoffrey Barton for putting on the final touches), the U-LEAF was towed away by Leigh Maher, of LEAF Community Arts as of yesterday.

The U-LEAF received it’s final coats of paint, aluminum siding, decal installed and donated by HENCO Reprographics, power winch, nesting boxes, and supporting scissor jacks all prior to the final ADC Donor-Appreciation event held at the Boathouse in River Arts District last week. The event was even covered by Mountain Xpress, see article titled “AVL Design Center’s DesignBuild Studio Rolls Out the U-LEAF Stage.”

In reflection of the wonderful experience that we all shared this summer, juggling part-time jobs, work/life balance, enjoying the WNC mountains and rivers, eating together, designing, problem-solving, and building together, I thought I’d wrap up this year’s AVL DesignBuild project with 3 Reasons You Should Hire a U-LEAF Crew Member on the Spot, to highlight the excellent team of students we had this summer! Here we go:

  1. Flexibility. Students are forced to stay on their toes whether it’s logistics (when/where are we meeting for the day), design challenges (physics!), time constraints (metal shop isn’t available today…), or resolving and incorporating client feedback (we want to cover the whole stage, now). The U-LEAF Crew was faced with many challenges, and navigating community outreach, incorporating feedback into the design, designing as a consensus, and building something that would work for LEAF, taught our crew adaptability, problem-solving, and resilience. The U-LEAF Crew is on the fly, and willing to do whatever it takes to make things happen!
  2. Attitude. Everybody loves service with a smile. By balancing weekend activities like trips to the lake, rivers, and A-B Tech Welding Club BBQ fundraisers, the pressure to finish on time and under budget never broke the positive attitude, and go-getter spirit of the U-LEAF crew. In order for everyone to work well together, we had to make sure we were able to balance fun and productivity. Using the “Yes, And…” mentality taught students to open their minds and build off each other, and this attitude produced a better product for our client in the meantime. You can teach technical skills in job training to anyone who has a good attitude.
  3. Teamwork. Soft skills like being a team-player are highly desirable in collaborative fields such as architecture, engineering, construction management, and project management. After taking a day to flush out the pros and cons of working in groups, the team used consensus-based design as a means for moving forward in all aspects of the U-LEAF design. Veronique Rodriguez, architecture major at Virginia Tech agrees: “I really like how we switched up the groups whenever people start to get stuck on a design idea or construction detail, so everyone works on each other’s ideas.” I think we can all agree that the U-LEAF is much better off having the input of many minds and hands than if an individual member of the group designed the whole thing, and then forced everyone else to build it. Unlike most architecture studios, design/build requires students to be accountable for what they design and draw, and integrating the design and construction in a team format is the only way to make a complex project like the  U-LEAF come to life.

There you have it, folks. Plain and simple. What do you need to make a mobile stage that is welded to an 8000-pound capacity trailer, with 900+ pound “wings” that unfold to a 17-foot by 18-foot sturdy, flat, and level perfoming surface? Oh yeah, and you only have $8500 budget for materials, limited skill sets, and 10 weeks to do it? You need a crew that is flexible, with a “yes, and” attitude that works well together as a team. Otherwise, you’d better save up $50k-$150k for one of these. Thank you to everyone who pitched in, you know who you are, and your name will be forever engraved on the edge of the stage… (Hire these guys, and you won’t be sorry:)

  • Allison Chan, Clemson University
  • Ashley Davis, Clemson University
  • Chad Ekre, UNC Asheville/NC State
  • Christina Booher, UNC Charlotte
  • David Koontz, NC State
  • Calum Dodson, UNC Charlotte
  • Ed Dale, A-B Tech
  • Caitlin Fogarty, UNC Chapel Hill
  • Julia Chapman, Clemson University
  • Lizete Rea, Clemson University
  • Melody Bazzle, Clemson University
  • Steph McConnell, Clemson University
  • Veronique Rodriguez, Virginia Tech

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