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Interdisciplinary team wins Student Union Rooftop Garden Competition

Michelle Tomaszkowicz
Group 3 of participates that won first place at the Roof Top Garden Awrds on 4/28/17

Participants and judges met last Thursday to receive awards for the Student Union Memorial Center (SUMC) Rooftop Garden Competition.

After a semester of planning, the winner is Team 3.

Team members Brian Caplan, Daniel Gillespie, Robert Melvin, Raul Moraga and Nicholas Tritz went home with $1,000 each in meal plan money along with plans to bring their design to life this summer. 

Second place went to Team 13, whose members won $500 each in meal plan funds.Team 7 came in third place and won $100 each for their meal plans.

“It really came down to capitalizing on the use of the space,” said Jill Lloyd, a judging representative and the assistant director of employee services and student engagement for the UA BookStores. 

One of the opportunities that the winning team brought to the table was the integration of greenhouses on the SUMC rooftop that schools around UA can use as teaching tools. 

“Our overall goal is to beautify and educate the campus,” said Tritz, an undergraduate in civil engineering.

Team 3 had a unique mix of backgrounds that each team member brought to the table. Caplan is a graduate student studying agriculture and biosystems engineering, Gillespie is an undergraduate studying sustainable plant systems and Moraga is an undergraduate in astronomy and civil engineering.  Alongside Tritz, Melvin is also an undergraduate studying civil engineering.

RELATED: Rooftop garden competitors give final proposals

“I liked seeing the teams come together as a whole,” said Evan Cione, the judging representative and sales consultant from Shamrock Farms.“Every team had certain stronger players, but the winners were able to come together as a team, not just individuals.”

This facet of the competition was one that team three embraced with enthusiasm. 

“It was cool to get to work with people outside your major,” said Tritz. “I learned a lot about agriculture and plant science and how to apply it all.”

In fact, when it came to problem solving in this competition, many of the problems were issues of engineering. One factor that caused many teams to design with caution was the weight-bearing capacity of the roof.

“It’s been a great exercise in how to create and present a design to potential investors,” said applied biosciences graduate student Sean McBride of Team 7.

Exposure to stakeholders is something that McBride valued in the competition because that kind of experience is rare in a classroom environment. 

RELATED: Student teams pitch plans for Rooftop Garden Competition

“I hate group work in school, but this was really good and different,” said environmental sciences undergraduate Marcia Slagle of Team 13.

The competition was a close call until the end. 

“The quality of the work that was done by the students far exceeded my expectations,” said Todd Millay, director of the Arizona Student Unions. “Specifically, the depth and expertise in certain areas were far beyond what I expected.”

The crops grown at the several garden sites designed by Team 3 will be available in the Campus Pantry and Pangea late next semester.

Several new student positions will soon be available at the SUMC, along with an opportunity to volunteer this summer and help in the construction of the newest permanent addition to the UA campus.

Team 3 will now begin the actual planning and construction of their design. 

Millay said that the other finalists’ inspiration will become a part of the final outcome. 

Follow Chandler Donald on Twitter.

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