Entrepreneurial design group leaving its mark at Texas A&M

A team of senior environmental design majors who bonded in a freshman studio is leaving its mark at Texas A&M after tackling projects as entrepreneurs and designers.

During the summer of 2012, trees were axed to make room for the construction of new dorms on the campus’ north side, a move that prompted some former students to register complaints with the Department of Residence Life.

After a recommendation from Rodney Hill, professor of architecture, residence life hired the group, Daniel Kelly of Pearland, Dustin Adler of Brenham, Ben Wilde of San Antonio, Sam Florance of Fort Worth and Josh Cristy of Shallowater, to design and build lobby furniture for the new dorm from the felled trees.

“It’s a win-win situation because we operate cheaper than any contractor could, we get the experience and they get a good product,” said group member Daniel Kelly. He and his colleagues worked with Michael Krenz, associate director of residence life, to create the pieces.

Using the CNC mill at the college’s Digital Fabrication Facility, the group weaved design elements borrowed from Texas A&M’s Century Oak into a 15-foot long, two-feet wide bar top.

“We took a photo of the tree, used Photoshop to trace one of its limbs, converted it to a vector graphic, cut it on the CNC router, and put it on the bar top” said Adler. The group is also designing and building a mantle, end tables and smaller pieces with the felled trees.

The students, who met in a studio led by Hill in their freshmen year, have also created a design proposal for “Startup Aggieland,” a student-operated working space in Texas A&M’s Research Park offering free entrepreneurship resources for students.

The proposal for the 4,000 square-foot space was created in a design research course led by Hill.

It features a futuristic look for the center, which university president R. Bowen Loftin touted Oct. 1 at a Department of Commerce forum in Washington, D.C. as a national model for student-led entrepreneurship and innovation.

The students also did their study abroad semester last fall as a group, attending the Artemis Institute in Jackson Hole, Wyo., led by Lori Ryker, an outstanding alumna of Texas A&M’s College of Architecture.

“It was a great experience, and it was the first time we’d worked together as a team,” said Florance. For their final study project, the group designed and built a pavilion at a public park near the institute large enough to shelter a maximum of 80 people.

posted October 12, 2012