Topics: College of Architecture and Planning, Immersive Learning

August 20, 2008

Winning an international award against landscape architecture practitioners and professional educators shows that Ball State University's immersive learning initiatives are preparing students for the real world.

Landscape architecture student Daniel O'Brian of Wolcottville earned top honors in the Integrating Habitats international competition in Portland, Ore., for his entry "Integrating Habitat_Creating Captivation."

The competition asked multidisciplinary teams to design and integrate developments in one of three scenarios: existing waterways, trees and wildlife habitats. The competition featured teams of student and professional architects, landscape architects, urban planners and biologists.O'Brian, who admits to gravitating toward the outdoors and sustainable design, became interested in the competition after a field trip to the Pacific Northwest and touring eco-friendly community developments. After the trek, his professors, Les Smith and Meg Calkins, launched a design competition using the Integrating Habitats competition as a guide. By winning the class competition, O'Brian's project was selected as an entry for the national competition.

"I used all the sketches, notes and photos from our tour of the Pacific Northwest for inspiration for my design," said O'Brian, who collected $500 as part of his winnings. "Knowing that Ball State's landscape architecture program is ranked nationally and that I represented Ball State well in this competition was a great honor."

O'Brian's top honor affirms the strategic direction in which Ball State is headed. Getting students out of the classroom and into real-world settings has long been a precedent, said Michel Mounayar, associate dean of the College of Architecture and Planning.

"It is wonderful to see one of our students win an international sustainability and green design competition against practitioners and professional educators," he said. "Honors like this tell me that our students and faculty are doing some amazing work, and we're able to compete on an international scale."

The video featuring O'Brian's winning entry can be seen at the competition's Web site and selecting "Category 1 Winner."