Opinions expressed in the AIAPV Blog do not necessarily reflect the policies or views of the Potomac Valley Chapter or its officers, directors or employees. Publication of member news, guest columns, commentary, notices, or event items in the Blog is not an endorsement of the news, commentary or announcement. AIA Potomac Valley does not take responsibility for, or any editorial position on, commentary, articles or news items submitted by its members or outside contributors. Any questions should be directed to the firm or author of the Blog piece.


University of Maryland, Engineers Without Borders — Mission: Sierra Leone

By Tom Mitchell, Architectural Product Specialist, Ernest Maier and Vice President of PVAF

What a refreshing feeling to work with a group of University of Maryland engineering students that are willing to give of their time and talent to help humankind. On Sunday December 8th, in 38-degree weather, at the AIAPV Chapter LEAFHouse, a 12-student team, led by Samantha Falco and student proctor Sung Ho, trained to build a hand washing station (for sanitation purposes), for inhabitants of Sierra Leone, Africa. The training was spearheaded by Tom Mitchell of Ernest Maier construction supply and complimented by Dave Richardson of Potomac Valley Brick. Dave Richardson has instructed the University of Maryland School of Architecture students on Basic Masonry 101, for over 25 years.


While most people take the laying of masonry for granted, these most acute students soon learned of the art and techniques that go into laying up a quality structure, in a timely manner. This two-hour interactive outdoor class started with footer/slab relationships relative to structural loads, proper methods of masonry material set up, mixing mortar, the relationship between the trowel and the mortar, handling heavy materials, placing mortar on concrete block, level/plumb relationships, water infiltration problems, striking and final clean up. The students clearly learned the complexity of masonry construction while having a genuine sense of pride and accomplishment, having laid up a partial prototype for Mission Sierra Leone. The activity was one of many potential learning Kiosks available at AIAPV's "Sustainability Park And Research Center" (SPARC), conceived by Bo Green, AIA, PVAF President.

Editor's Note: Many thanks to Ernest Maier, an AIAPV Gold Level Annual Partner, for donating the materials for the interactive class.

Return to list