A few years ago when professor Justin Honey began thinking about how his students in the Construction Management and Construction Engineering Technologies department could get some exciting, real-world experience, he sent a letter to producers at the ABC hit "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," offering their services should the show ever come to this part of the country.
Now nearly six months after the infamous Joplin tornado cut a swath of destruction through the city, the students have had a chance to shine.
In October, "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" filmed a show unlike any before: In one week, seven homes were built. Producers have announced it will air (likely in January) as a two-hour special and will be the show's 200th episode.
A milestone for the Emmy award-winning production, the experience was also like none other for approximately 200 PSU students and professors who played a large role in the construction of those homes.
"To have been given this much responsibility is incredible," Honey said. "We had to show them that our students not only have the academic knowledge, but also the field experience to back it up."
Pittsburg State's CMCET students worked in four primary areas: The students supplied all-around support teams (known as "Cobra" teams) for each home under construction; were responsible for on-site safety and OSHA compliance for all construction personnel and tradesmen; and took care of material staging and handling, which meant making sure material was brought up to the job site as needed.
For Honey and the eight construction management seniors who made up his project management team, this meant performing countless interviews with other students interested in volunteering for the massive project and selecting the best. The students rotated 12-hour shifts during those seven days, working alongside professional construction companies from across the area. Nearly half of those students were assigned to the COBRA teams, which gave them a chance to be the "right hand" men and women working alongside professionals.
Although the seniors used the mega-build as their main project for Senior Projects, their capstone course this fall, there was no extra credit being awarded for participation - they simply volunteered their time.
"Working on a project of this size and intensity is an experience like no other," said Kelsey Mullis, a senior construction management major and member of the PSU project management team. "When we put the word out that we were looking for students, we were flooded with offers to volunteer."
Honey is proud that the PSU team comprised the largest group to participate in the build, and that the program's outstanding reputation led to an opportunity like this. "This was a tremendous challenge to make everything come together," he said. "But it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."