MSU students learn value of creativity, teamwork through Armstrong Middle School outreach project

Contact: Sasha Steinberg

Students in Mississippi State University’s College of Architecture, Art and Design recently participated in a design competition sponsored by Brasfield and Gorrie construction firm of Birmingham, Alabama. The competition sought proposals addressing innovative ways to redesign classrooms and other spaces at Armstrong Middle School, which will serve local eighth and ninth graders after completion of the Starkville Oktibbeha Consolidated School District Partnership School in 2019. (Photo by Beth Wynn)

STARKVILLE, Miss.—When the highly anticipated Starkville Oktibbeha School District Partnership School opens its doors to sixth and seventh graders in 2019, Armstrong Middle School also will welcome eighth and ninth graders to upgraded facilities, thanks to input from more than 50 students in Mississippi State University’s College of Architecture, Art and Design.

With individual members representing architecture, art, building construction science and interior design disciplines, nine student groups recently presented proposals addressing innovative ways to redesign classrooms and other spaces in Armstrong Middle’s main building. The group projects were part of an annual student design competition sponsored by Birmingham, Alabama-based construction firm Brasfield and Gorrie.

Each group’s 15 to 20-minute presentation was critiqued by representatives from Brasfield and Gorrie, the Starkville Oktibbeha School District and MSU, who selected three winners. Shared equally among group members, prizes were as follows: first place, $1,400; second place, $900; and third place, $600.

Senior Anna K. “Katie” Erickson of Madison was the sole art major in the first place-winning group, which also consisted of two building construction science, three interior design and four architecture majors.

While there was no budget requirement for the project, Erickson said her group “wanted to provide valuable designs that implemented science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics, or STEAM.”

 “We called our project ‘Illuminating Innovative Ideas,’ and one of our goals was to bring in more natural light from the sun,” said Erickson, who is concentrating in graphic design and photography. “We proposed a central atrium that goes from the first floor up to the second floor to help with that concept.”

Erickson said the atrium would be surrounded by glass walls on all sides, thereby enabling people to look down and see into the Learning Commons on the first floor. Equipped with booths, tables and technological equipment, the Learning Commons space would provide students with a fun and comfortable spot for studying, group work or leisure.

 “We also proposed the idea of having a compass in the middle of the first floor,” Erickson said. “It would be a design element, but also an orientation device to help students and others interact with the space. A mural on the wall of the staircase that extends from the first floor to the second floor also would help people orient themselves within the school.”

The group’s proposal also features plans for an indoor multipurpose classroom with a garage door allowing easy access to an outdoor courtyard space or classroom area with a percola, where teachers could hold class.

 “We had two weeks to get the job done, and we all put in equal effort to determine the best solution for the school,” Erickson emphasized. “We will be working in group environments with people across different disciplines in the real world, so it was important that we were all passionate about the project and willing to validate each other’s input.”

“I learned things about architecture, interior design and building construction science that I may not have otherwise. The project worked out well,” she said.

Additional project information is available from Jacob Gines, MSU School of Architecture assistant professor, at 662-325-0094 or

Learn more about MSU’s College of Architecture, Art and Design and its academic programs at, as well as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @CAADatMSU.

MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at

Wednesday, September 13, 2017 - 10:50 am