Durham architect delivers hands-on experience for STEM students

Feb. 08, 2013 @ 06:41 PM

Paul Young, a professional architect from Durham, visited sixth-grade students at Vance County’s Early High School Science Technology Engineering and Math program on Friday.

Young, who graduated with a master’s in architecture in 1999, says his firm feels strongly about connecting with students and the importance of STEM programs.

“That’s the way it’s going, that’s where it’s all going, technology,” Young said. “I’m talking to you in front of a smart board. That blew my mind when I walked in here. I’ll just be honest.

“I think that’s fantastic, because technology is where every profession is headed, and architecture is no different.”

While Young sees technology playing an important role in the careers of tomorrow, he still made a point to emphasize the full realm of skills an architect encompasses.

“I think it’s important to emphasize that architecture is about art, history, English, public speaking,” Young said. “That’s important for kids to understand.”

One of the skills he highlighted, unrelated to technology was public speaking.

“I talk to civic institutions, city council, county commissioners, school boards, homeowners association, I do a lot of talking,” Young said.

“I’ve got to know how to do it well. I’ve got to be persuasive. I’ve got to look at that county commissioner and say, this is why I need to spend an extra $2 million dollars.”

Nearly 75 percent of the design work done at Young’s firm, DTW Architects and Planners, Ltd., is for schools.

Students received first-hand perspective on the skill sets required for becoming an architect through Young’s presentation, and a hands-on activity where they designed their own rooms with one door, two windows, a place to sleep and a study area.

“Most times in any classroom, they’re going to ask, ‘When am I going to use this?’” said Lynn Conlee, math and engineer design teacher at the early high school. “This is the perfect example.

“When we have outside people coming in from other communities that can connect things they see everyday, the students, now they have an activity that they are eager to do.

“They connect that to their math, he connected this to history and the sciences.”

The Vance County Early High School STEM program is in its first year of existence, with at total of 90 students.

Friday’s interactive session with a professional helped the young minds of tomorrow understand that a career as an architect is attainable and possible in their futures.

“You can go to Harvard,” Young said. “You can go to Princeton.

“If you want to go there, and you want to participate in their architect program, your teachers will get you there.

“Don’t sell yourself short.”

Contact the writer at amauser@hendersondispatch.com.