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perp 13KMA is doing its part to provide women with the tools to build a career in construction. KMA associate, Heather Mertes provided a helping hand last year to The National Association of Women in Construction’s (NAWIC) summer program, MAGIC camp.

MAGIC camp, short for Mentoring a Girl in Construction, is a weeklong summer program designed to train female high school students the skills of up to five trades in the construction industry, including plumbing, masonry and electrical work.

In 2010, MAGIC camp volunteers put their heads together and came up with the Solar Green House project for the campers to build on a parking lot of the Stanley E. Foster Construction Tech Academy (CTA) in Kearny Mesa. Heather volunteered her time to provide a design concept and construction documents for the project.

“The best way for students interested in design and construction to obtain valuable experience is to get involved in actual construction projects,” said Heather Mertes. “It was so rewarding for me to see the design take form and to know that the drawings I provided were easy for them to understand and allowed them to efficiently build the structure within a week.”

For one week, high school students constructed the Solar Green House with donated building products and materials, and mentoring support from MAGIC volunteers.

The rectangular 213 square foot Solar Green House includes a gravel pad for housing compost worm bins and a cistern to capture water from the roof downspout for a drip irrigation system for the greenhouse plants. The south-facing shed roof supports two solar panels to power interior lights and the drip irrigation system.

The green house also features opaque polycarbonate panels on the walls and roof, essential for allowing visible solar radiation from the sun to be scattered and absorbed by the plants. Other design features included: a sliding barn door; ample open space to house plant racks; built-in-shelving and tool storage; and “whirly” roof vents. Proper ventilation is essential to a successful green house as it helps regulate the internal temperature, allowing for fresh air to circulate and also aids in reducing pest infestations. Heather’s specific design to balance light, temperature, C02 and water will help optimize future plant growth in the Solar Green House.

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“The girls did a remarkable job in such a short amount of time and should be extremely proud of their new green house,” continued Mertes. “I was so pleased to hear from the MAGIC Committee that the green house was a great addition to the campus and the science program, and that it is functioning very well.”

During the construction process, not only did the girls in the program utilize their technical skills, they had the opportunity to learn about teamwork, leadership and achieving a goal and left a permanent legacy for CTA. Heather’s support with the project will have a meaningful impression on the lives of many young girls and help propel a new generation of women in construction.
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