EVEN THOUGH MARY Vosevich thinks the old “win-win” cliché is worn out, she says it’s a great description of what happened recently at the Gorham Scout Ranch in New Mexico.
Vosevich, vice president for camping and properties of the Great Southwest Council, says the camp was suffering from years of “deferred maintenance issues.” Christopher Shelby, Scout executive, puts it more bluntly: “The camp was pretty worn out,” he says.
To make things even more challenging, in the spring of 2010, Santa Fe County, which has jurisdiction over the camp, ruled that the council could not go forward with improvements until it submitted a master development plan to the county. The plan would need to include 50-plus engineering exhibits covering studies of water retention, drainage, fire protection improvement, and more.
It was a daunting requirement—and expensive, too. Engaging a professional architectural engineering firm could have cost up to $100,000, Vosevich estimates.
Luckily, Vosevich had a foot in another camp. In her day job she is director of the physical plant department at the University of New Mexico. She knew that the university’s engineering school was always looking for challenging projects for senior students. So she conferred with engineering associate professor Andrew Schuler, who helped bundle the Scout ranch’s engineering study requirements into capstone projects for 22 seniors in civil, mechanical, and environmental engineering.
The students spent the entire fall semester making numerous trips to the Scout ranch and creating the required exhibits, submitting their study in December of 2010.
“Their study was so thorough that it actually included cost estimates of all the material and labor required to implement the plans,” says Harvey Chace, a member of the camp’s construction committee. “They figured out which of these extensive upgrades could be done by volunteer labor and calculated what it would cost to hire contractors to do the more difficult portions of the work.”
Having those specific dollar amounts means a lot when it comes to fundraising, says Shelby. “Now we’ve got information we can use in the capital campaign. It’s not pie in the sky. We can tell potential donors it will cost exactly $150,000 for this water-system improvement.”
But that’s only part of the happy ending. The University of New Mexico’s Department of Civil Engineering submitted the Gorham Scout Ranch project to the annual competition of the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES), and … bingo! The students won the 2011 NCEES Engineering Award grand prize, worth $25,000.
Vosevich believes the UNM-BSA partnership could spark other similar collaborations. “It’s good for Scouts, and it’s good for the universities and the students who want to become professional engineers,” she says.