Kendra Deutsche

After three long and strenuous days, Cal Poly students are well on their way toward completing the Poly House project.

Cal Poly project management students devoted the weekend to a project they have been planning all quarter that will bring much needed help to a family in San Luis Obispo.

The Poly House project renovates, remodels and repairs a local home over only two weekends as part of IME 556, technological project management.

“It teaches us project management skills that we will use later on in the field,” said Caren Carreiro, an engineering graduate student and one of two student coordinators for the project.

“It’s a real-world, real-scale project that we can apply the stuff we’re learning in class to,” Carreiro said.

Professor Roya Javadpour, the adviser for the project, explained that a client from the community, usually recommended by a local nonprofit organization, is chosen for the project.

This year, the client is local resident Marie Patraeus and her daughter, Carla Henderson. Patraeus is an elderly woman in the area who is almost blind and physically disabled. Henderson, who also has physical disabilities, cares for Patraeus, leaving her with limited time to care for the house. Henderson’s daughter, who also has disabilities, lives with her mother and grandmother.

Poly House is a way for students to help the local community while applying techniques learned in class.

“The goal of the project is to learn project management skills through doing community service (and) – to improve their (the clients’) lives by fixing up their house for them, and hopefully just (to) brighten up their day every day,” said Lianne Williams, a mechanical engineering senior.

Over the weekend, students were kept busy with the many tasks that would improve the house. On Friday, which was commonly referred to as “demolition day” by students at the site, all of the flooring, some walls and drywall were torn from the home. The bedroom was also redesigned to increase space.

After realizing the front wall was rotting, it was torn down to be replaced at a later time. Additionally, the siding of the house was removed.

Construction of two new porches, equipped with ramps and a fence, also kicked off the weekend.

Inside, the walls have new drywall and were taped and textured.

Various possessions in the yard were sorted through and either relocated or thrown away to make landscaping more effective. The entire property will be landscaped with plants, stone pathways, sod and more by May 21.

Electrically, things are moving along as well.

“There was a lot of very old wiring that was unsafe. We’re removing the unsafe wiring and replacing it with brand new wires,” industrial studies and technology graduate student Brian Lawler said. Lawler is also a lecturer in the graphic communication and humanities departments.

“We have wires coming out of walls, and we have no idea where they go,” he said. “But this is actually kind of fun, and it’s really challenging because we’re trying to make sense out of nonsense.”

Without the support of the local community, the Poly House project would not be possible. The students have been relying upon community volunteers as well as professional services to make the project successful, Carreiro said.

“So far it’s been really exciting and I think the client’s going to be really happy with her house,” Williams said.

“It’s been a little scary because we’ve been planning this for six weeks now,” mechanical engineering senior Jessie Barrett said. “It’s kind of scary to actually be out here ripping things off. It’s really fun to actually get our hands dirty, though.”

Trevor Squier, a polymers and coatings graduate student, said that he prefers this project to typical coursework. “I wish I had more time to work on this instead of homework.”

The project transforms students immensely, as it forces them to apply all their classroom knowledge, Javadpour said, adding that she enjoys seeing the students grow through such a challenging experience.

“Our slogan around here is ‘it’s better than it was,’” Tim Barrett of Barrett Electric Company in Santa Rosa said. He is volunteering his time and expertise to the project alongside his daughter, Jessie.

Although the house will not be perfect, the improvements they are making will make it a much safer and more pleasant home for the family, even if it was not always an easy task.

“It seems like (in) any project like this, we don’t really know exactly what we’re getting into until we run into a lot of problems,” Squier said. “This class is what teaches us how to deal with those problems.”

“The only problem is tools that you want to use are no longer at your feet where you left them because somebody picked them up to use them somewhere,” Tim Barrett said.

On Sunday, one student did step through the kitchen ceiling, though no injury resulted.

“There’s a big, foot-shaped hole in the kitchen if you look up,” Jessie Barrett said, but it wasn’t enough to dampen the students’ moods.

This is the third year the project has been implemented. Every year, students go above and beyond what is expected of them to make the project successful and Javadpour believes this will be the case again this year.

“Every time, they (the students) actually have exceeded all the goals that they set for themselves,” Javadpour said. “They’re really committed to the project, but they also show their commitment to excellence. I’m confident that it’s going to be great.”

Construction on Poly House will be completed next weekend and students will hand the finished house back over to the owner on Sunday at 5 p.m. at a revealing ceremony.

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