This article has been reposted from Dunwoody College News.

New class of Architecture students help bring previous design proposals to life

A new group of Architecture students visited the Steger Wilderness Center in August 2017 to prepare for their semester project

A new group of Architecture students visited the Steger Wilderness Center in August 2017 to prepare for their semester project

In August of 2016, third-year Architecture students were challenged with one of the program’s largest and most innovative projects yet: to design a brand new dining hall for the Steger Wilderness Center.

The venture inspired the program’s first studio course, Dining Wild, led by Architecture Senior Instructor Molly Reichert and wilderness adventurer and Center founder Will Steger.

Dining Wild

Throughout the studio, students spent their semester touring the site, working with local businesses in the culinary industry, and creating design proposals. And in December of 2016, students pitched three different design ideas to Steger.

But, the project didn’t end there. Instead, those three designs were saved for the next class of Architecture students, who were charged with turning their predecessors’ proposals into one final building design.

Same project, new students

“The second semester of Dining Wild was very interesting in that we were not starting from scratch,” Reichert said. “Typically architecture studios start with a clean slate and students can let their ideas run wild over the course of the semester. This semester required a much more rigorous and focused approach to move the design forward and respond to the client’s needs.”

With help from Steger, the new group of students spent their fall semester combining and refining last year’s schematic designs.

Students meet with Will Steger to flesh out building plans

Students meet with Will Steger to flesh out building plans

“It was good to have a starting point,” Architecture Student Jacob Larson said. “And working with Will is really interesting.

“You know what he likes and you can incorporate that into the design,” he said. “Working with your client is really helpful because you get that clear feedback.”

The process

To ensure their final design would remain environmentally friendly as well as respond to the chilly site conditions of northern Minnesota, students spent several days visiting and exploring the build site. They also received helpful information and building tips from industry professionals.

Last semester, Marvin Windows and the Structural Insulated Panel Association (SIPA) presented on sustainable methods of building and how windows and Structural Insulated Panels (SIPS) can contribute to a more efficient construction schedule.

Architecture students learn from a SIPA representative in class lecture

Architecture students learn from a SIPA representative in class lecture

Mechanical Engineer Craig Tarr—who specializes in alternative energy—also shared what mechanical systems and appliances were most efficient and ecologically sound.

Students even enlisted help from Dunwoody’s Surveying & Civil Engineering Technology program. Last spring, Surveying students surveyed the Center grounds to provide the Architecture students with necessary site information to help move the project forward.

The result

Using this information, students worked in separate groups, each tackling different pieces of the final building documents. Groups included a Drawing and Renderings team, a Material and Product Specifications team, and a Physical Model team.

Students then combined their findings and suggestions into one ideal construction plan. This plan was then proposed to—and immediately approved by—Steger and his team late last month.

Students present final proposal to Steger and his team

Students present final proposal to Steger and his team

The Center is expected to break ground later this year.

“It was fun working on a project that is actually going to be built,” Larson said. “It’s an experience I won’t forget!”

Read more about the students’ semester experience by visiting their class news blog.

See the final design proposal.

IMG_1115 Over the past two weeks the Steger Wilderness Center has been buzzing with work. The Conservation Corps of Minnesota and Iowa have integrated into the community built here at the Center. The crew is made up of seven youth and two crew leaders who are a part of the AmeriCorps Summer Youth Corps program. They “spend the summer living outdoors and leading youth in outdoor service projects.” The Conservation Corps offers meaningful work for youth in learning how to manage and thrive in the environment around them.

The Conservation Corps crew at the Center had spent their time working on a variety of projects. In the mornings the crew worked on a forestry project around the Homestead. They lopped and sawed dominant tree species to encourage new growth, and in the process learned about tree identification. When they began the project they frequently asked questions about tree species, but towards the IMG_0660 end they were answering each other’s questions. In the afternoons the crew worked on a masonry project with the Interns. The Interns were taught the skills of masonry at the start of the summer and were able to become the teachers for the CCM crew.

The Steger Center community was sad to see the amazing crew we worked so closely with leave today. An immense amount of work was completed and it would not have been able to be accomplished without their help.

IMG_0732Though water may be where they feel most comfortable, the campers from Natalie Kate Bolin Memorial Camp spent last Thursday afternoon hauling stones at the Steger Wilderness Center. This is one of many open water swim camps through the Oshkosh YMCA sponsored by Lee Coleman and directed by her son, Jay Coleman, Head Coach for the Oshkosh High School swim team. This particular week long camp occurs every summer in memory of an Oshkosh swimmer, Natalie Bolin, who was killed in an auto accident in 2010. Wisconsin swimmers mainly apply, but they can come from all over the nation and the top 20 applicants are selected. The leaders of the camp are all individuals who have been campers before and have completed a year of college.

IMG_0706When the crew of 28 swimmers, camp leaders arrived at the Steger Wilderness Center they were prepared for any task thrown their direction, which happened to be quarried stone. They spent two hours assembled in a line spanning a quarter mile in the grueling heat passing one stone after another. Though they had hiked 17 miles the day before, they never once failed to impress the Steger Center crew with their musical renditions, laughter, and enthusiastic attitudes. We welcome back the Natalie Kate Bolin Memorial Campers any day!

The Power House holds the generators and electric wiring for the Steger Wilderness Center, but there is also a specific room designated for the BAE industrial batteries from Germany. The separate room is necessary because the batteries produce gas fumes and excessive heat requiring the room to be well vented, but also well insulated which will make it easier to heat in the winter. There are two types of BAE batteries: one rack contains 24 gel batteries and the second rack contains 24 flood lead acid batteries. Each individual battery cell is 2.1 volts and the whole unit is 48-volt DC Nom system. These batteries can only hold a fraction of solar energy that the panel array produces.

Greg Mowry, Will Steger, and Todd Yurk Carrying the BAE Batteries

Greg Mowry, Will Steger, and Todd Yurk Carrying the BAE Batteries


Two Racks of BAE Batteries

Crews experienced a historical weekend at the Steger Wilderness Center as components of the micro-grid were installed in the Power House. A buzz of excitement, but also eagerness for final completion swarmed the Homestead as progress was made only Minnesota’s first fully separate grid from the electric system.

Tom Schroeder, Solar Technician and Team Leader at Sundial Solar

Tom Schroeder, Solar Technician and Team Leader at Sundial Solar

Tom Strom, Solar Technician at Greenstone Renewable Energy and Mike DeBoer, Manager of Operations and Facilities at the Steger Wilderness Center

Tom Strom, Solar Technician at Greenstone Renewable Energy and Mike DeBoer, Manager of Operations and Facilities at the Steger Wilderness Center

John Kramer, CEO of Sundial Solar Energy

John Kramer, CEO of Sundial Solar Energy

Todd Yurk, Director of Technical Operations at Sundial Solar

Todd Yurk, Director of Technical Operations at Sundial Solar

Greg Mowry, Professor at University of St. Thomas School of Engineering

Greg Mowry, Professor at University of St. Thomas School of Engineering

Julie Kramer

Julie Kramer, Painter Extraordinaire

Untitled design-14Painting can be a frustrating and even tedious task as arms begin to tire and frustration builds from first coat to last, but never here at the Steger Wilderness Center. Listening to musical renditions of the oldies, painting faces on walls, and charismatic conversations discussing the ethics of Disney songs give the Painting Maidens a reason to carry on. The past two days Power HouseAndrea Sandeen and I have been painting rooms in the Power House in preparation for installation of the German lead-acid batteries for the new solar panel array.

Last summer, a momentous event occurred at the Steger Center of which many people are not aware. Minnesota’s first fully operational Micro Gridelectrical system separate from the electric grid was installed. Sundial Solar, a Minnesota based company, installed the solar array and will be finishing it this weekend. More panels are being added and the system will be up and running by the end of the summer.

Though it was brutally hot and we became canvases in the process, the painting project was for a purpose that the Steger Wilderness Center has anticipated for decades, a micro grid. The Painting Maidens are just helping on one of the last steps before the finished product.

By Sarah Evans

Untitled designE-club was back at the Steger Wilderness Center, although not in an official capacity, which is a good indication of its dedication to this particular environmental cause. Members of the Environmental Club at the Cambridge campus of Anoka Ramsey Community College rearranged work schedules and set aside a long weekend during their summer break to come up and work at the Steger Center. Joining them were equally dedicated faculty members, Melanie Waite-Altrip and Andy Aspaas, who pitched in while exploring partnership opportunities with the Steger Wilderness Center.

Untitled design-5It was two days of wood and stone for this crew. On Friday they set about completing the firewood mission begun in late April when the e-club was here last to harvest wood from the forest. The next phase was given over to splitting and stacking all that wood in order to supply the entire Homestead through the winter. By Friday’s end storage sheds were bursting with wood and the odor of it being freshly split.

Saturday came with rain, but the e-clubbers were undeterred. Stone recently quarried from a fractured ridge in the forest had to be hauled out rain or shine. From past experience they knew the best method for removal lay in the process of assembly, so they spread Untitled design-4out between rock pile within and the road at the edge of the forest. Buckets with handles were added and through a bucket brigade that defied the rain and the rugged terrain, another deposit of Ely green stone was made into the stone mason’s bank account.

At the end of each work day interns, apprentices, and e-clubbers, representing three different organizations but sharing a common cause, converged first on the lodge and then Hobo Village for some eat and greet time, just as countless dedicated folks have done Untitled design copy 2before them, since the day that Will first arrived nearly 50 years ago. They all came together as one caring community, but if the past is any indication, this was not merely a gathering of good-hearted and hungry individuals who sacrifice their free time for a good cause, this was a fellowship of future leaders.

By Peter Wahlstrom

YEA!MN Base CampDust filled the air of the driveway at the Steger Wilderness Center as the three vans from YEA! MN drove home from their weekend retreat. Fifteen students had arrived Friday evening ready to disconnect from the city life and connect with their fellow group members to review their year of work and discuss their next plans of action. Youth Environmental Activists Minnesota (YEA! MN), a high school environmental leadership program of the nonprofit Will Steger established in 2006, Climate Generation, works with high school environmental clubs around the Twin Cities Metro to encourage environmental leadership and sustainability on campus and beyond.

YEA!MN HikeWill Steger is one man with three active legacies, and Climate Generation, founded in 2006, is one of them. It aims to educate and empower people to engage in climate change solutions. Climate Generation achieves this through programs like YEA! MN, an annual Summer Institute for educators where participants learn about the newest discoveries regarding climate change and climate change education, and by encouraging youth to become involved in public policies pertaining to climate and clean energy.

YEA!MN on a Tour with WillClimate Generation is a result of Steger’s first and most prominent legacy, his world-renowned expeditions where he witnessed the ravaging effects of global warming on the polar regions. In 1986, he led the first confirmed journey without re-supply to the North Pole by dogsled. In 1988, he led the longest unsupported dogsled expedition across Greenland, a 1,600-mile trip. Finally, in 1989-90, he led the International Trans-Antarctic Expedition, a 3,741-mile long dogsled journey across the widest expanse of Antarctica. These expeditions, Will’s crowning achievements, comprise his lasting legacy that made the others possible.

Camp by Fire LightSteger’s third and newest legacy is the Steger Wilderness Center, which is built to be an example of ecological stewardship, as well a location for leaders of all ages to gather, work, create, and live together. Located in the Northwoods near Ely, MN, the Steger Center is a place where the distractions of urban life are muted in order to shape a community of leaders cultivating innovative thought and action.

YEA!MN Clearing BrushAlthough Will Steger’s three legacies are separate entities, they remain interconnected in the way that each one allows the others to thrive. While members of YEA! MN were at the Steger Wilderness Center, in addition to their conference, they camped, cooked their own meals over the fire, swam, canoed, helped clear brush, and interacted with the Steger Center community. When asked about his experience at the Steger Center, Kumar, 18, from Minneapolis a member of YEA! MN said “this place is one of the coolest spaces I have ever been in my life.” Rebecca, 18 from Minneapolis, added: “The buildings work so well with the environment, everything is so cohesive.” In the end, the weekend at the Steger Wilderness Center for YEA! MN was not only a wilderness retreat, it also served as a bridge for two non-profits hatched by Will Steger to work together and benefit from each other’s experiences.