Steven Polchinski is seeing his creative architectural designs become reality while serving the Muncie community, thanks to an immersive learning project.

“It’s fascinating to see these projects realized and watch them transition from the digital realm to the real world,” Polchinski said. “Most work in architecture programs lives on the computer and never gets produced, so it will be very rewarding to see my design carried all the way to completion.”

The third-year architecture major has been working on an entrance threshold for the local makerspace Madjax. The students are creating an entry sign installation in the courtyard by recording sound files from the building and using that data to generate three different patterns, which have been layered for an aesthetically innovative appeal.

The work is all part of the immersive learning project i-Made, which stands for Indiana, information, and individual — the three critical elements of the project.

The immersive learning experience — led by Associate Professor of Architecture Kevin Klinger — has more than 10 industry partners that contribute professional expertise and materials that bring the students’ various designs to life. (As Ball State takes aggressive measures to mitigate the threat of COVID-19, students completed the remainder of the immersive learning course remotely and collaborated with community partners virtually.)

“We implement a forward-thinking methodology called design-through-production that allows students to see the entire process of realizing architectural work,” Klinger said. “Students conceptualize ideas and then work directly with producers who provide feedback and mentorship until the design is a physical product.”

iMade immersive learning group

Students and faculty mentor Kevin Klinger discuss the project with John Smith of Midwest Metals, who has helped with metal fabrication.

The entrance threshold for Madjax isn’t the only design being produced in the course.

From exhibitions, to farmers market improvements, transportation enhancements, and pop-up mobile libraries, students fabricate digital design solutions with partners such as the Indiana Hardwood (hardwood is the state’s largest revenue crop), Midwest Metals, Minnetrista, and more. EcoVantage even donated thermally modified Indiana Hardwood lumber, which was sourced from sustainable forests and due to thermal modification, much more durable in outdoor settings.

“The impact is manifested in that we are providing students empowering opportunities to be civically and regionally minded, to tap into a global network of knowledge, and to make a difference where they live at college,” Klinger said. “Both students and industry benefit from this exchange of ideas.”

Polchinski is using this immersive learning project to bring him closer to his career goal, which is to open his own digital design and fabrication firm.

“The studio culture, collaborative mindset, exceptional faculty, and amazing opportunities are what inspired me to become a Cardinal. I wouldn’t want to spend my time anywhere else,” Polchinski said. “And I can’t wait to apply all I’ve learned throughout my career.”

Klinger said he is glad to help students find their passion and purpose at Ball State.

“Seeing the students’ inevitable enthusiasm and leadership when they realize their responsibility and capability to make an impact is incredible,” Klinger said. “I try to light their fire and then take a step back and watch them take over.”

Funding for the immersive learning project includes the generous support of the Shaeffer Fellow Endowment.