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Hands-on learning benefits project

On a sunny April day the masonry and concrete students at Dakota County Technical College are busy building a solar panel that will provide electricity to the concession stands at a new soccer complex on the west side of the campus. Little do they know their educational experience will benefit hundreds of Rosemount residents.

The complex will feature three full-sized adult soccer fields that can be subdivided into six youth soccer fields. DCTC and the city of Rosemount partnered to build the soccer fields. When the turf is ready, possibly this fall, it will provide a much needed place for area soccer teams to play.

In the meantime, the concrete and masonry students are getting much needed experience by building the concessions building, the base for a solar panel that will provide electricity to the building, a concrete pad for the bleachers and walkways to the fields.

"Everything we're doing is part of our curriculum," said instructor Paul Geisler.

The masonry and concrete program teaches students fundamental construction skills as well as properties and testing of concrete, concrete repair, specialty concrete properties, concrete production facilities operation and concrete construction methods.

The soccer complex project is bigger than most of the undertakings the program does but Geisler said he knows they'll get it done. The class of 14 started by pouring the footings for building in November.

Through the winter they continued to work on the project.

"The winter sucked," said student Troy Nesler.

With three weeks left in the semester the students have quite a bit of work left to do. Geisler said they need to finish the solar panel base and lay the concrete for the walkways and the base for the bleachers. In additional they will play with some coloring and stamping.

"It's good exposure for these guys," Geisler said.

The students do all the labor for free, which brought the cost of the project down.

While some classroom time is necessary, Geisler said he tries to get his students as much hands on experience as he can. His students appreciate that.

Covered from head to toe with dirt student Brandon Jones said he enjoys getting out and working with his hands.

"It's the best way to learn," Jones said.

When talking about the project Jones seemed proud of what he and his classmates had already accomplished.

"It's a thrill to see something of this magnitude built by the students," he said, pointing at the concession stand.

The students spend nearly six hours a day on the project. It's back breaking work and the students are under the watchful eye of Geisler, who likes things done perfectly.

"It's pretty hard work," admitted Nesler. But he said he didn't mind it.

The college provided the land for the fields and the city has provided much of the money needed for the project. Ames Construction, out of Burnsville, donated earthwork.

Parks director Dan Schultz said the fields could be playable by this fall or at the latest next spring. He said the partnership with DCTC has gone smoothly and will benefit Rosemount kids.

"We look forward to getting on the fields and playing," said Schultz.