Educational opportunities already abound at The Hotel at Kirkwood Center
When The Hotel at Kirkwood Center opens for business in the fall of 2010, it will serve as a unique learning tool for future students at Kirkwood Community College. In fact, as construction continues on the Kirkwood campus, the new facility has offered a wide range of educational opportunities already.
The Hotel at Kirkwood Center will be a 71-room upscale hotel and conference center that will also serve as an instructional laboratory for students in Kirkwood’s Culinary Arts, Restaurant Management and Lodging Management programs. Those students will gain valuable hands-on experience in their particular area of study by assisting full-time, professional staff working at the hotel.
But even as the hotel is taking shape at the intersection of 76th Avenue and Kirkwood Boulevard on the Kirkwood campus, it’s providing valuable real-world experience for many Kirkwood students. For example, construction management students of Kirkwood Professor Jim Off have been using the hotel’s drawings and specifications as a focus of study for the past two semesters.
“We look at the way that the contract has been written and we also look at the materials and the way the building comes together,” Off said. “We’ve used that for estimating classes, for construction management classes and for construction law classes.”
Off’s students would go to the construction site about every six weeks and record the progress that had taken place. At the end of the semester, the contractor, Miron Construction of Neenah, Wis., took the students on a tour around the jobsite.
“It helps them develop a better understanding of what’s happening rather than just looking at drawings,” Off said. “They could actually see the materials and see how everything goes together. We’ve spent time at the jobsite just watching the production and the way the crews are organized. For instance, are there two, three or four people working together? Does it look efficient, or are some people standing and waiting for things to be delivered? In class, we talk about it just in theory and mention this is what you need to think about. By looking at a real project, they’re able to see some of the problems that come into play and what some of the options are for dealing with them.”
Off said going to an actual construction site also helps students to overcome what he calls the ‘wow factor’ that can be common when first arriving to a jobsite. “Sometimes you get out on a commercial job and it’s easy to just stand there and go ‘Oh man, that’s neat. Look at the big crane.’ That kind of stuff,” he said. “So we talk about how they need to be productive when they come to a jobsite, inspect what’s happening, and really look for details and record data. This gave them some practice at doing that.”
The hotel construction is also providing some valuable practice for the students of Troy McQuillen, an assistant professor in golf course/athletic turfgrass management. Those students have to go through a series of two classes in their second year, one being irrigation design and the second being irrigation installation and repair. McQuillen said projects underway on the Kirkwood campus offer the perfect opportunity to put those developing skills to good use.
“We installed an in-ground automated sprinkler system for the new horticulture building and we’re about 75 percent done with that system,” he said. “It’s a very, very rigorous course we go through and it’s about 90 percent hands on. So we’re out there knifing the product in, setting heads, watering valves, pulling pipe and trenching pipe in. We’re doing a little bit of everything.”
Next, McQuillen’s students will turn their attention to the Kirkwood Center for Continuing Education, most likely in the fall of 2009, and then to the property around the attached hotel, probably in the spring or summer of 2010.
“Just for the conference center we have 3,065 feet of poly pipe that will go into the ground,” McQuillen said. “We have 750 feet of inch-and-a-half PVC that will go into the ground. And we’ll have somewhere around 50 irrigation heads that will be placed in the ground. And that’s just for the conference center, so you can probably double everything for the hotel.”
Although it may take a little more time, McQuillen said the work done by his students can be done at about half the cost of an outside contractor. But more important, he said, are the lessons that are learned in a real-world working environment.
“When I first started teaching we’d do small projects, put in about 100 feet of irrigation tubing, put the head in, and then take it out because we’re done with it,” McQuillen recalled. “Then I said ‘let’s get some value out of it. Let’s start a project and complete a project and then turn it on and let the students reap the rewards of their hard work. The value of hands-on experience goes above and beyond, in my opinion, anything that I could lecture about for two hours in a classroom.”
In the classroom of Architecture Technology Professor Jorge Lopez, students studying architecture technology, construction management and interior design students were given the task of creating a 3D image of one of the hotel rooms. The name of class was Architectural Illustration and Model Building.
“I think there was some value to the assignment,” Lopez said. “I’m very interested, when the hotel is built, to go back to the model and say ‘is this what we expected? Did it work?’”
What is certainly expected is that, when completed, The Hotel at Kirkwood Center will serve not only as a premier destination for travelers but as an educational tool for years to come. As construction continues, the learning has already begun.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to use the experience of building the hotel to benefit our students,” said Kirkwood Hotel Manager Lee Belfield. “It takes a lot of coordination. Different areas of study have their own course content. But working to achieve that kind of collaboration between the departments on campus makes a lot of sense.”