Former Harrison Township students receive a look into the architecture industry

Calandra, DiFabio were invited to attend an all-day event in Newark following their STEAM Tank presentations

Laura Richardson, Pleasant Valley sixth grade teacher, center, is pictured with Madelena DiFabio, left, and Gabrielle Calandra, right, on Nov. 28 with the ‘Menu @ Your Fingertips’ prototype (Krystal Nurse/The Sun).

By KRYSTAL NURSE

The Sun

On Nov. 27, Clearview Regional Middle School seventh-graders Madelena DiFabio and Gabriella Calandra went to Kids Design Day with their former sixth-grade teacher, Laura Richardson, to learn about architecture and the role their app, Menu @ Your Fingertips, plays into the field.

The two presented their app in the STEAM Tank competition (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) throughout the year, and in early November, were recognized by the state’s chapter of the American Institute of Architects for “Improvement to the Human-Built Environment,” and invited to attend the organization’s Kids Design Day at the New Jersey Institute of Technology to present their app to AIA members, professors, and college and Newark Public Schools middle school students.

Kids Design Day was an all-day event where students and industry leaders and educators in the architecture industry assisted middle school students in exploring the field and provided three teams from the STEAM Tank competition (Richardson’s group, “H2O Fortress” of Camden County Tech and “The Smart Alarm” of Berkley Heights) to present their inventions.

The two, along with others in attendance, were provided with a tour of NJIT and a presentation on the field and the type of schooling prospective architects would need to go through.

“The whole purpose was to teach these kids, that are all about middle school age, what architects do and how you would go about becoming an architect someday,” said Richardson.

Throughout the course of the day, DiFabio said they were able to collaborate with others during a design charrette, an intensive planning meeting for people to create and combine several different designs into one piece, of a town.

“[The professors] talked a lot about how you need to always think about what the building’s being used for, what purpose it serves,” said DiFabio. “What atmosphere it has to have. What’s the design of the building? Is it going to be more modern? Is it for people, for cars? What does it have to be used for?”

In relation to their app, the all-day event, they said, helped teach them how to better know their intended users in an effort to eliminate foreseeable glitches or bugs. Calandra said one of the questions presented to them about their app was by a student in the Newark Public Schools who asked about adding different languages and platforms.

“I feel like it just inspired us and opened our eyes to everyone who could be positively affected by this app who might not speak English, so I think that would definitely be something we’d try to put it in different languages,” added Calandra.

Attending the event has also helped the two see possibilities in the field, as they were exposed to different facets of architecture, such as interior design, digital design, engineering and more.

“After that, it opened my eyes to the fact that, that was a job choice that I could go into,” said DiFabio. “If I wanted to help people and do designing and everything.”

“I think it definitely opened my mind a little bit because my future careers have been all over the place and I recently decided I wanted to be an engineer and when we went and saw that presentation, I loved a lot of the elements that were included in the program and it definitely made me reconsider what I wanted to do,” said Calandra.

Richardson added the girls learned about how NJIT structures its architecture program and how students are consumed by it from having personal offices where one student, during the event, explained she “stayed overnight 13 times” to work on projects.

The girls’ moms, Alicia DiFabio and Danielle Calandra, both said they were blown away with not only what they created with the app, but also the experience they received from Kids Design Day.

“I’m really inspired by them and just the opportunity to public speak, influence, learn, share, and help this population that can often be under-served,” said Alicia.

Danielle echoed Alicia’s sentiment and added that while receiving those skills, the kids they presented their app to were also provided with the opportunity to ask insightful questions and be exposed to the field as well.

The girls hope to explore the field more as they navigate through the Clearview Regional School District and narrow down their prospective career paths.