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Ryerson Engineering and Architecture Students Catch TimberFever

A student works on a power saw to complete his team’s wooden structure before Sunday’s deadline. (Arthur White/Ryersonian Staff)

When they signed up for the first ever TimberFever challenge at Ryerson, 36 architecture and engineering students knew they would have 36 hours of building time, a couple power saws and a short supply of wood, glue and nails. But they had no idea what they were supposed to do with it all.

It was only this Friday that they got their instructions: build a scale model of an emergency medical shelter, approximately 1.3 metres cubed, to be judged on aesthetics, functionality and capacity to withstand a “stress test.”

The eight teams, some of them strangers before that Friday, were competing for prize money totalling $2,000. Organized by Moses Structural Engineers and Ryerson University, the challenge aimed to get them away from their computers and drafting tables for three days of hands-on construction experience.

The bulk of the design and building work happened in and around the Architecture Building on Church Street. Jackie Galang, an architectural science student and member of Team Fir, said that some of her teammates stayed up all night, while others worked for 12 hours straight on Saturday.

“We kind of relate by not being able to sleep and drinking a lot of coffee,” she said.

Team Fir’s project was capable of changing form, using hinges to alter the size and shape of the shelter.

Anas Al-Abdullah, a civil engineering student, says that his Team Larch went for an unusual architectural design.

“Our idea was to make it not look like a box,” he said, “So we made an octagon, and just for the look of it we made it slope shaped.”

But the team hadn’t finished all of their walls by Sunday afternoon, just an hour before the competitors carted their projects to Gould Street for the final judgment. Al-Abdullah was anxious about the upcoming stress test where 61.2 kilograms of steel plates would press down on each construction.

“We don’t know if they’re going to hold out to the specific force they’re going to apply,” Al-Abdullah said.

Ultimately, all of the projects survived the stress test, but some buckled and swayed more than others. The four professional architects and engineers who made up the judge panel chose Team Pine for the $750 top prize.

David Moses, principal engineer at Moses Structural Engineers, said Team Pine paid “thoughtful attention to the experience that a patient would feel while being treated,” using their open-concept frame to play with the “effects of light within the space.”

“The team felt that the shelter should convey a sense of safety and strength,” he said, commending them for their practical, prefabricated design, which would “speed up installation in the event of an emergency.”

The projects stayed on Gould Street until Tuesday so students and pedestrians could vote for a favourite online. The winner of the $200 people’s choice award was Team Ash.

Neither Team Fir nor Team Larch placed high enough for cash prizes. But whether they win or lose, the members of Team Fir are happy with the skills they’ve gained. Architectural science student Nibin Nabeel said she feels a lot more “handy.”

“Now I know I can cut something by hand,” she said. “That’s what I’m taking away from this.”

Article by: Joshua Arthur Peter White-Crummey