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Construction expo a chance for students to star

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Last week’s construction industry expo was held at the Holiday Inn and Conference Center in Upper
Macungie Township.
Last week’s construction industry expo was held at the Holiday Inn and Conference Center in Upper Macungie Township. - (Photo / )

Youthful exuberance was on display at a local construction industry product show last week, reflecting the budding spark of innovation shown by the next generation of professionals.

The 38th annual CSI Allentown Chapter Product and Design Show attracted nearly 80 manufacturers and suppliers who showed their latest products and designs but also the projects that two local high school groups are undertaking. CSI is a national association of specifiers, architects and engineers, contractors and facility managers, manufacturers and other related industry professionals.

The event, hosted at the Holiday Inn and Conference Center in Upper Macungie Township, featured a baseball theme in recognition of Babe Ruth Day and included four seminars and a visit from the Lehigh Valley IronPigs minor league team mascot.

At the event on April 27, students from architectural and construction groups at Emmaus High School and William Allen High School in Allentown displayed their projects, which included a design for an observatory and a refurbished baseball field.

“It’s great exposure for the kids looking to get into architecture or construction,” said LeeAnn Slattery, sales and marketing leader for ATAS International in Upper Macungie Township and president of CSI Allentown Chapter.

It also could help in leading more students into construction, which is expected to see a worker shortage as more baby boomers retire.

For the students at Emmaus, the idea for designing and building projects for their school started with a tour of the ATAS manufacturing facility, said Scott Didra, a drafting and architecture teacher at Emmaus High School.

“I wanted the students to experience building something; we’ve been doing that the last six years,” Didra said. “It has been a dream that has come true with help from so many businesses. It started with a single Manufacturing Day tour at ATAS.”

For the new observatory project, which the students are finishing, ATAS donated all materials for the roofing and siding, Didra said.

Mike Siemons, an Emmaus student, said the idea for the project started with the 2011-12 school year, when students designed a playhouse for preschoolers.

For its latest project, the observatory, the goal is to create a sliding roof that opens electronically from a remote computer, Siemons said.

“The class all worked together, then we created models,” student Ben Whitby said of the observatory project, which is expected to be finished in June.

Home Depot donated the wood for the estimated $95,000 project. Spillman Farmer Architects of Bethlehem supported the project through its architectural experience.

At William Allen, students and staff created The William Allen Construction Co., a student-run organization that completes renovation projects for the school.

Staff and students were on hand at the expo to showcase their talents and show the projects they completed. The organization’s newest project is a plan to upgrade a flood-prone and worn-out school baseball field situated between Muhlenberg College and Cedar Beach Park.

“We are going to renovate the entire field and fix it,” said Norm Lohman, a teacher adviser for the organization. “We want to dedicate our funds to the baseball field.

“We currently have no dugouts, we don’t have steps that go down to the field.”

For each project, the student team designs it, he said, noting that the organization subcontracts the work for all its projects with Alvin H. Butz Inc. The Allentown construction firm helped create The William Allen Construction Co. and mentors students who plan exterior and interior improvements to the school. All materials are donated.

Other projects the organization completed include a refurbished bus shelter, on the Linden Street side of the school, that serves students and the general public.

“Our students use it for LCTI [Lehigh Career & Technical Institute] when they are waiting for the buses,” Lohman said.

“A lot of our students who play sports can wait there.”

The organization also renovated Allen’s main entrance and a hallway and landscaped.

The team is designing a timeline of the school’s history that it will display on the high school walls, and will display murals around the baseball field it wants to renovate.

“Essentially, these are all projects that the district does not have the funds for,” said Michelle Bruno, a co-adviser for the organization. “A lot of students learn skills and go on to companies. Students get a perspective on what it takes to run a business.”

Another benefit is that the students who take part in helping create the project appreciate it more once it’s complete, she added.

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Brian Pedersen

Brian Pedersen

Reporter Brian Pedersen covers construction, development, warehousing and real estate and keeps you up to date on the changing landscape of our community. He can be reached at brianp@lvb.com or 610-807-9619, ext. 4108. Follow him on Twitter @BrianLehigh and read his blog, “Can You Dig It,” at http://www.lvb.com/section/can-you-dig-it.

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