April 29, 2011

Students to present 'Noah' with plans to build ark

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- With the heavy rains in the region over the past week, many people may have started to wonder about the need to build an ark.

Students pursuing a Professional Construction Management degree at Southern Illinois University Carbondale next week will present customized plans to Noah -- yes, that Noah -- to do just that. Rather than have the 16 students in his program management class focus on building an environmentally friendly office complex, home or university building, instructor J. Kevin Roth wanted a project to take students “as far out of their comfort range as possible.”

“I wanted to get any preconceived notions out of their minds and then have them step-by-step go through a program process,” said Roth, an assistant professor in the Technical Resource Management (TRM) program.

Media Advisory

Reporters, photographers and camera crews are welcome to attend the presentation and interview students after their presentations. The class meets at 4 p.m., Tuesday, May 3, in Room C0113 in the College of Applied Sciences and Arts Building. Contact J. Kevin Roth, assistant professor, at 618/453-7219 or by email at jkroth@siu.edu for more information.

In setting up to build the ark from concept to the start of construction, students must consider what resources and information they need to pull the project together including available land, utilities, location, how it will be built, and the owner’s needs. In this instance, Roth relied upon specific project information God gave to Noah in the Bible, comedian Bill Cosby’s “Noah” monologue, and the “Evan Almighty” movie. The movie features a full-sized ark built in New Jersey, Roth said.

Split into four teams, the students will present their ideas to “Noah,” in this instance, Jon Davey, an architecture professor and distinguished faculty member, at 4 p.m. Tuesday.

Davey visited Roth’s class about five weeks ago to discuss his building needs and desire to “outsource” the project, Roth said. The four teams next week will submit a report and give Noah a PowerPoint presentation on their plans.

Rather than relying on the 160 years it took Noah and his family to build an ark, Roth said he imposed a one-year construction schedule and is allowing for modern conveniences including electricity, metal and concrete. The teams must still consider how they will feed and house approximately 16,000 animals, Noah and his family, and alleviate ventilation and waste concerns. And while electricity will be available to build the ark, it is not a standard feature on the vessel.

The brief outline of the four proposals so far include:

  • A steel-frame ark with wooden hull built in an existing dry dock in New Jersey shipyard to take advantage of available labor. The group must also factor in transportation and lodging costs and space for Noah, his family and all of the animals to the East Coast during construction.
  • Using metal forms to build a concrete ship on a site near University Farms on SIUC’s campus. The group initially considered the former McAndrew Stadium location for a building site but found the area too small for the Ark and accompanying equipment, material, and animal storage.
  • Retrofitting an existing cargo ship that has four levels.
  • A largely unknown project that a group is keeping under wraps. Roth jokingly expressed concern this idea might take 160 years to build.

Davey and Roth will listen to each proposal, consider the feasibility, and see which group has most thought the project through. It is important that project managers work with owners to help them understand their project, and consider revisions to original ideas, when needed, Roth said.

“It’s important to develop an owner’s confidence that they can actually do the job,” Roth said. “The more items they have thought about and the more issues they solve in this process the more convincing they will be to Noah.”

Roth began work on the project last summer as he was planning the course. The Technical Resource Management program is in the School of Information Systems and Applied Technologies within the College of Applied Sciences and Arts. The “2+2” program allows individuals with occupational associate degrees to come in and ultimately earn a bachelor’s degree.

Many of the students in this specialized program already have construction experience and understand the needs once plans are drawn and projects bid. This exercise allows students to understand the owner’s objectives from the initial idea, with a focus on analyzing and resolving problems their clients will have before the project is drawn, Roth said.

In this exercise, students cannot call “1-800-ARK” and have experts deliver the solutions, Roth said. Students are finding that one proposal is not easier than another, and that each has its own set of issues to resolve, Roth said.

There also is no one correct answer, Roth said.

“It depends on the direction you take and whether or not the logic and process hangs together from start to finish,” he said. “That’s why convincing Noah is really the key to their success. Can you convince a client that you know what you are doing and that you have the game plan?”