By Nick Woodruff
STILLWATER, Okla. —
An architecture class at Oklahoma State University is taking theoretical and practical practices of architecture and making them physical.
Students regard Architecture 3116 as a “fun” course, according to junior architecture major Jonathan Hall. For approximately two weeks, members of the class have been designing and building gravity speed racers.
Although the class was asked to be creative, there were some guidelines when building the racers, Hall said. The cars couldn’t exceed two feet in width and six feet in length. Also, each team couldn’t exceed a $150 budget on its car.
Hall’s team made their car from an old Bowflex machine. There also were cars made from PVC pipe, Coke cans and dump truck tires. Hall said seeing the diversity was one of his favorite parts of the assignment.
After the time, effort and sweat of design and construction, the cars were ready for race day at Boomer Lake. Approximately 40 students came to the lake Friday afternoon to see their creation roll down a hill.
Mohd Bilbeisi, professor of the course, said he wanted students to get more experience with the “physical” features of architecture. Bilbeisi and two fellow professors devised the course and the event. He said his class can’t afford to build a house, but they can build a gravity race car with a reasonable budget.
Bilbeisi and professors Seeungra Ra and Paolo Sanza feel they have created a learning but fun experience for the students, Bilbeisi said.
Students had approximately two weeks to design and build their race cars. Looking at the 12 different cars on race day, Ra said he could tell students put in a good effort with the project.
“They wanted to create something good because it’s theirs, it represents them,” Ra said. “There really was not much influence on our end because the kids wanted to create something they could be proud to show.”
Even though students had approximately two weeks, Bilbeisi said he wanted students to have fun designing and learn to take classroom teaching and apply it in a real-world experience.
Bilbeisi said the experience should be fun, but the No. 1 priority at race day was safety.
“Remember, I want to attend your wedding,” Bilbeisi said to the class before the race. “Not your funeral.”
The drivers of the cars were required to wear helmets and gloves before rolling down a slope at Boomer Lake Park.
Once the race began, it was a couple of hours of non-stop fun.
With music playing in the background, and the crowd either cheering when a car made it to the finish line or an “ah” when they would veer off course, the students were happy to see their designs perform on race day, Ra said.
Ra said architecture majors have egos and in a group project it has to be something everyone agrees with, which can be hard for a person with a strong ego.
The idea of working with others is another reason why the project is better than others, Ra said.
Bilbeisi said the project was a good real-life learning experience.
“Feel free to write this,” Bilbeisi said. “It’s the best studio in town. It’s fantastic. It’s design, design development, design communication and fabrication. It’s a fantastic package.”