If I had to point to one thing that makes the biggest difference in the success of a PCI Foundation education program, it would be the relationship between the professors and the local industry partners. Those partnerships start early to ensure that the student experience reflects the local industry needs and completely meets the curriculum required by the university. In most cases the partners focus on either a regional group or individual producer member company. They review the syllabus, step in to give lectures, and invite students into the field and fabrication facility. But the relationship doesn’t always stop there. A few professional members and suppliers to the precast industry are taking part in the programs and helping make the experience even more meaningful to the students.
For the last three years, Ray Clark of US Formliner has worked with professor Calos Barrios at Clemson University to give students a first-hand experience making their own formliners in the studio.
I give our AIA presentation on formliners and then we move to the hands-on portion,” says Clark. “The students mix the liquid rubber, pour some into our standard master molds, and some of them use their own elements or designs. A chance to get their hands dirty is a favorite with many of the students. “They love it,” says Clark. “Last year a student told me it was his favorite part of the studio. They love getting their hands dirty and making their own design.
Even after the semester is over, the relationship continues with some of the students. One who was in grad school requested help with formliners for her studio work, and another Clemson student asked Clark to come in and present to the architectural firm where she was working. Now that he has been working with the studio for a few years, Clark says he is seeing even more success than when he first started. “What I noticed this year, when I taught the studio was that the students had all these precast projects they were designing spread all around the room. Each year we are reaching further through the studio. It is really starting to get legs and getting students engaged in the program. They are buying into concept about designing with precast.
After conducting his workshop earlier in the semester, Clark was able to return this year to see the students final projects. “This year was really the one I got the most out of - especially because I attended the review at the end of the year. We reviewed a project that students only had six weeks to design. Several times I caught myself remembering that they only had those few weeks to design a full building. I hope more of our members become engaged in the studios. We need more supporters through the membership - producers and associates. It is great if our industry provides not just financial support, but also hands-on work with the programs,” says Clark.