When the PCI Foundation first started funding educational programs at schools of architecture, engineering and construction management, the first thought was simply getting precast into that program for that semester. The thought of reaching students beyond that initial program was beyond the hopes and dreams of those sponsoring the programs. And yet, that is exactly what has happened.
Although the PCI Foundation may only sponsor one specific class, the program reaches out far beyond those few students. As the precast programs have developed, we have seen them develop “tentacles” … the precast programs are influencing areas beyond the classroom where our work is funded by grants. Some of the unexpected results of the programs we have created include:
Creating a professional community of precast professors
Recently I attended the final review of the student projects at the University of Michigan. I was happy to run into Brad Bell, who runs the PCI Foundation program at the University of Texas at Arlington. Professors attending each other’s programs has happened almost since the beginning of our programs. Additionally, professors share their programs together during the PCI Convention. The best curriculum ideas rise to the top and are redeveloped in other classrooms.
Expanding beyond students in the sponsored classroom
One of the encouraging byproducts of the sponsored programs at schools of architecture, engineering and construction management is that some of the events that happen as part of the PCIF funded program are offered to other students in the school. We see this happening especially with plant tours and job site tours. Students in other classes are often invited along, and for many schools we are seeing that every student in the program is at least exposed to the precast industry in this way.
Developing continuing education programs for local professionals
Several of the professors running PCIF funded programs have looked for other ways to use their new-found knowledge to enhance professional education as well. When guest speakers are invited in for the class, community professionals are sometimes invited along. In some cases, precast is added as a topic to a major program. At the University of Southern California, professors Doug Noble and Karen Kensek worked with the local precast industry to host several precast "building enclosure" seminars.
Suppliers take part in the action
The studios concept coupled with convention attendance leads to relationships to delve beyond the local producer level as professors get to know suppliers. We have seen students take plant tours to supplier associate members plants such as Hamilton Form and Ray Clark of US Formliners has provided seminars in the classroom on forming technology. Other suppliers have assisted with materials research for student projects. Professors who attend the PCI Convention have enjoyed the opportunity to walk the trade show floor and learn more about the products used to fabricate precast concrete.
Precast is added to curriculum in other classes
Many of the professors teaching our courses have found that they would like to have students have at least a basic familiarity with precast prior to to attending their first class. On several campuses, we have seen precast added to the curriculum in courses like methods and materials classes -- reaching beyond the students who take the precast course. It has also been added to some BIM programs.
Professors are publishing about precast.
Professors have published articles in architecture magazines about their programs, spoken about them at professional conferences for architecture professors, have developed book projects that focus on precast concrete, and even published an entire journal about precast concrete enclosures.
Offering a forum for integrated programs
Another unexpected result of our programs are the opportunities it has created for schools to offer integrated programs. More often than not, professors in schools of architecture and engineering don’t know each other, even when they teach at the same school. Thanks to the work of some of our original programs, that has changed. Integrated programs that include more than one school at a university are a regular occurence with our programs. And, for many students it will give them the only opportunity to work with the same students they will need to work with once they are out of school. This is one of the most eye-opening experiences - beyond the precast lessons - that the students enjoy.
Adding precast research subjects
Many of the professors we deal with have a research component to their duties as well as their teaching duties. For many of the schools we are working with, that research has taken on new precast topics. Precast materials and methods, sustainability, and new products have all been part of research conducted by professors receiving PCI Foundation Grants.
Now entering our 10th year of programs, these are just a few ways that the PCI Foundation has helped our industry stand out during the education process. As we add programs to our roster and bring new professors with new ideas into the fold, we hope to see expansion of these ideas and the introduction of precast standard construction and design curriculum.