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Several Nebraska Engineering students and alumni found a way this summer to have fun in the sun, use their skills, and help a good cause. They designed sculptures for Omaha's 2009 Sand in the City event, benefiting Nebraska Children's Home Society.
Four students in The Durham School of Architectural Engineering and Construction volunteered in early spring to be designers and were placed with corporate teams in the annual competition. The students met weekly with their teams, had at least one practice session, and prepared to dig deep on a Friday afternoon in June. The challenge for students was the deadline for sculpture designs during the same week as finals in their classes, but somehow it all worked out.
Each entry had a 15-by-15-foot space: 12 feet tall, with 15 tons of sand. Some students designed with computer-aided drawing while others did freehand diagrams; a few used clay models. Most did online research on professional sand sculpting techniques. They gathered strange sets of tools- trowels, spray bottles, and whisk brushes-plus sunscreen, bottled water and festive beach attire.
At noon on building day, the teams began work under the patchwork of shade tents near Omaha's Qwest Center. Time management was a concern for some teams still finishing their forms at 3 p.m.
No more than 12 people could work on an entry at any time, and judging began promptly at 6 p.m. Sean Bergstedt, an architectural engineering student, liked designing the Bass & Associates concept based on the movie, Up.
Nicole Prucha, a structural engineering student, had input and inspiration from her two children in creating MarketSphere's entry ("Did You Hear That?") with a campsite overtaken by a large bear and a hungry raccoon.
Architectural engineering student Matt Hebert enjoyed working with Mutual of Omaha on their first-ever entry, with a Wild Kingdom of animals celebrating the company's 2009 centennial.
And AE student John Tran got in touch with his inner child by designing the Centris entry, "Finding Nemo." Tran said his favorite part was "just getting into it" during the building day. He felt good about his team's "ambitious" design, and added a tiny clownfish bathtub toy, hidden in the design, as his signature element. Otherwise there were no "secret ingredients"-all teams got the same "sharp sand," like builder's sand, with edges that make it more shape-friendly.
The Hughes Machinery entry, "Taste of Omaha" (with monsters and aliens chomping the skyline), also had five Durham alumni on its team.
Crowds visited over the weekend, and thunderstorms passed through one night, blurring the edges on a few designs. After the weekend, while the creators were still washing sand from their toes, the sculptures were demolished as planned. But many participants have already vowed by Carole Wilbeck to try again next year, and Nebraska Engineering students will be there to help shape Omaha's city of sand.