Building models builds teamwork |

Building models builds teamwork

FRISCO – Michelle Warpecha and Dana Meeker are planning to build a restaurant. They have an 8,250-square-foot lot and a $2 million budget to work with.

Last week, the two were interviewing local construction professionals as they researched town building codes and labor and supply costs.

The two girls are among a group of fourth- and fifth-graders from around the county who are spending six weeks planning and designing buildings. The building project is part of the district’s academic challenging extensions (ACE) program for advanced students.

“They’re to design and build a model of a structure that would be educational, cultural or economically viable to our county,” said Cyndi Swarts, coordinator of gifted services for the elementary schools.

The goal of the program is to give students a better understanding of the community and the role of builders and developers within it, Swarts said, while improving their teamwork skills and developing their math, technical, scientific and social studies skills.

“The interaction is so important, because each person is dependent on the others in the group,” she said.

It also gives the advanced students an opportunity to work together outside of their classrooms – increasing their potential for learning.

The students are working in teams of four – each with a different role. Each team has a draftsperson, labor contractor, supplies contractor and a public relations spokesperson.

Advanced students Alma Martinez, Nick Adolph, Tony Feldman and Ieva Urbaite are working together to build a commercial funhouse, known as Mountain Mania, in Frisco. The building they are planning will include an arcade, a bowling alley, a cultural food court and a science museum.

Adolph said the team chose Frisco for their building because of its central location and because they’ve heard Frisco has the most relaxed building codes in the county.

As supplies contractor for the team, Feldman was responsible for estimating the cost of materials for their building. According to his calculations, supplies will cost them about $772,000, he said.

None of what they learned from building professionals will require major adjustments to the building design, Urbaite said, but the team will have to make some minor changes. For example, Urbaite learned the team must include an emergency exit for each room, except the bathroom. The emergency exits will increase their costs, but not substantially, she said.

Feldman said they also are required to plant trees around the building, to shield it from neighboring homes. The trees will add an estimated $10,000 to their costs, he said.

At another table, ACE students Gina Eliopoulos, Jonathan Johnson, Cody Cirillo and Samantha Stokes were busy planning a youth center with a small museum. They, too, chose Frisco for their building.

“It’s kind of in the middle of Summit County, and Frisco doesn’t have a lot of attractions,” Eliopoulos said.

The team estimated it would need to budget $240,000 for laborers and was still determining costs for supplies. Stokes was busy calculating how many parking spaces they would need to provide for the building.

The questions the students asked the local building professionals were thoughtful and detailed – everything from how to build a glass dome roof to what is required to build an underground parking structure.

“Some of them had some specific questions about how thick the walls should be,” said Nick Farkouh, a local structural engineer and contractor.

“Or the number of stalls in a bathroom,” added Mike Khavari, a local structural engineer.

“It’s surprising how much they really understand about the whole process,” Farkouh said.

One of the groups was taking an extra step and planning a building which generated its own energy, Khavari said, illustrating that there are no boundaries to children’s ideas when they use their imagination and work together.

“You can see the synergy,” he said.

At the end of the six weeks, the student teams will present their models to a group of judges for critique. Swarts said the judges likely will include local mayors, planners and commissioners.

“It’s kind of like it takes a community to build a model,” she said.

The students will present their completed building models at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 21 at Frisco Elementary School.

Lu Snyder can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 203, or

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