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Construction students help build new ‘White House’ at state fairgrounds

September 11, 2013 2:45PM

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Pitt State senior Kelsey Billingsley poses with a 3-D model of the new Lair White House that will be built at the Kansas State Fairgrounds in Hutchinson. Billingsley was among the original group of Pitt State students that helped design the new facility.

As the Kansas State Fair celebrates its century-long history this week, Pittsburg State University students are working to make their mark on the fair’s next 100 years.

Three Pitt State construction management seniors -- Kelsey Billingsley, Kyle Collins and Anthony Pierce -- are serving as managers of a project to build a new “Lair White House” at the state fairgrounds in Hutchinson. The existing facility, which has served as a museum and meeting location for nearly 60 years, will be torn down after this year’s fair. Ground will be broken on the new Lair White House on Sunday, Sept. 15.  

Pittsburg State’s involvement began in December 2012, when the Kansas Fairgrounds Foundation asked the university’s School of Construction officials for assistance in building a new museum and support facility. During the Spring 2013 semester, five Pitt State seniors took it on as part of their senior project.

“Those students served as pre-construction managers on the project,” said Joe Levens, assistant professor in the School of Construction. “They were involved in everything from the design of the building to budgeting to scheduling. It was a unique opportunity for them to be involved in a real-world project really from the start.”

Billingsley is the lone remaining student on the project from the original five, as the others graduated in May. She worked closely with the building’s owners’ committee and construction faculty to create a 3-D virtual model of the new Lair White House. Once approved, that model was then printed in full on a 3-D printer at the Kansas Technology Center.

The 3-D model of the new facility was presented and sold at auction last week during the annual Boots and Bling fundraiser hosted by the Kansas Fairgrounds Foundation. The highest bidder paid $1,700 for the model then donated it to the Kansas Fairgrounds Foundation.

“It’s been a tremendous experience being able to work on this project from the ground up and have a genuine impact on the future of the facility,” Billingsley said. “Getting to work closely with the owners and design team has taught me a lot, and it’s this real-life experience that makes the construction program at Pitt State so valuable. It's also a thrill to know that we're playing a big role in something that I can one day show my family when we visit the fairgrounds. I can tell my kids that I was part of the team that built the Lair White House."

Collins and Pierce, as part of their senior projects this semester, are serving as construction managers and will work on scheduling, budgets and other managerial aspects of the construction.

“I’m learning so much more on this project than I probably have on any other project,” Collins said. “This is real-life stuff, and we want this new White House to be perfect. It’s a privilege to get to work on a facility that means so much to the state.”

The new Lair White House will be built by Hutchinson-based Nunns Construction. The company conducted a workshop at the fair this past weekend during which Pitt State students joined with those from Hutchinson Community College, Hutchinson High School Career Tech Academy and Nickerson High School to build cabinets for the facility.

Construction on the new Lair White House is set to be complete during the summer of 2014. The 2013 Kansas State Fair runs through Sept. 15, in Hutchinson.

©2013 Pittsburg State University