News Briefs

Students compete in Olympiad of Architectural History

By Rebecca Reimers

The small group of students arrived at Rutland Middle School’s technology lab right after school ended one recent Wednesday, logged onto their computers, and began working on their projects before the school’s technology teacher, Jack Adams, returned to the tech lab from his last class. These students knew what they were working on, what they still needed to do, and, with a little help, how to get it done. They are the Rutland Modeling Superstars and they were preparing to compete against other teams from around the state in the 3D Vermont Olympiad of Architectural History on Friday, March 25, 2016, hosted by Vermont Technical College in Randolph. The prize: five Chromebooks to the top middle school team.

The competition, in its second year, was founded by Mike Hathorn, who teaches both history and 3-D printing in Hartford, Vt. Hathorn conceived of the competition as a way to engage students from around the state in researching and documenting historical buildings in their towns. The website “3D Vermont: Town History in 3D Competition” lays out the guidelines and rationale for the competition, which is supported by the Vermont Division of Historic Preservation, Vermont Technical College, and the Vermont Agency of Education, among other partners. In addition to architectural accuracy and level of detail in the 3D printed model, the presentation of each building’s history, architectural style and details, and uses over time were judged. Teams submitted 3D models using the program SketchUp, created a multimedia presentation, and presented their research and design at the competition.

Team members collaborate closely, providing feedback to each other, reminding each other of what still needs to be done, and teaching each other how to use the software. Adams decided to recruit middle school students this year who he thought would be interested in participating.

Not all students consider themselves to be experts in technology. Avery Allen believes her strengths are in conducting historical research and designing PowerPoint presentations. Gio Falco enjoys creating videos and taking photographs. One frustration noted by Matt Noel was that only one student could work on a file at a time, but the students adapted by working on different parts of the project while helping each other.

This year the Rutland Middle School team chose two buildings for the competition: Longfellow School and Trinity Church, both in Rutland. Students visited each building, conducting on-site measurements using a tape measure and, to measure height, a sextant and trigonometry, with formulas provided by several helpful members of the math faculty. Emma Duffy emailed the Rutland Historical Society requesting information about Longfellow School and, within days, received a scanned copied of typewritten documents from 1978 detailing the history of the building and the decision to close it when it was found to be structurally unsound. Wendy Grace of Trinity Church was docent for the students during their tour and proved to be a reservoir of knowledge about the church’s history since the building’s completion in 1864.

In addition to oral and written histories and research on-site, students gathered information on-line for the multimedia presentation. While Duffy consulted a website about architectural styles, Sebastian Guyette demonstrated how photos from GoogleEarth could be superimposed over the 3D drawing of the school to reproduce more accurate details, particularly from a bird’s eye view.

The hard work, focus, and intensity of the team were counterbalanced by the friendly banter among its members and laid-back leadership of Mr. Adams. He likes to preface his feedback with, “I hate to be Mr. Gray Cloud, but . . .” when cautioning that the team to focus on priorities and deadlines.

And when asked if he or she will be part of next year’s team, each student responded, “Yes!”

“It was ‘fun-learning’,” Avery said. Matt stated, “I like to stay after school and have something to do. If I went home I would be bored.” Rutland booster Gio Falco already has his sights set on one of next year’s buildings, the iconic entrance to the State Fairgrounds. “It’s something special that Rutland has that no other place does.”

The high school winners: Windsor H.S. (first place) and Enosburg H.S. (second place).The middle school winner? The Castleton Village School team.

For a complete description of the project, visit

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