Student construction crew to build observatory |

Student construction crew to build observatory

by Teri Vance, Appeal Staff Writer
Photo by Cathleen AllisonHeavy equipment began moving dirt in preparation for the Jack Davis Observatory construction at Western Nevada Community College on Wednesday morning. Construction technology students at the college will be involved in the construction from start to finish.

Brian Grecian, 19, is confident that by moving earth, he can capture heaven.

“Bring it on,” he said Wednesday morning at the construction site of the Jack C. Davis Observatory at Western Nevada Community College.

Grecian and his construction technology classmates are stepping out of the classroom and into the field to begin work on the million-dollar facility.

“The objective is to give students the ability to work on a job that they’ll be involved with from start to finish,” said construction technology instructor Mark Lera. “They will understand the entire construction project from excavation to completion.”

The 2,800-square-foot building will house one 10-inch and two 16-inch reflecting telescopes. Another 4-inch refracting telescopes will be housed in a robodome outside for solar viewing and research.

Being able to participate in the construction of the observatory made 19-year-old Henry Bartenbach’s move to Carson City from Nebraska to enroll in the program worthwhile.

“This is an opportunity of a lifetime,” he said. “I would never have had this experience back home.”

Rite of Passage students enrolled in the three-semester program at the college will also work on the construction.

“We’re nervous, of course. But I think we’re ready,” said Jason, 17. “We’ve done a lot of practicing in the classroom.”

And the students hope it will lead to future opportunities.

“We’ve been wanting to do a real job and get some real experience so when we’re done with the program, we can get a real job,” said Charles Balzer, 22. “That’s what it’s all about.”

It’s also about having fun.

“A little kid always wants to play with Tonka Toys,” explained Brian Cooper, 29. “When you grow up, you get to play with the big ones.”

Reece Harrill is a graduate of the program and is now the branch manager of United Rentals. The company donated all the equipment for the construction.

“It’s a hell of a good program,” said Jerry Edlefsen, salesman for United Rentals. “We make a living from this community, we’re just giving back.”

The observatory is set to be completed in time for the fall semester when three new astronomy classes are scheduled to begin.

Among other private and corporate sponsors who have donated to the project are the Builders Association of Western Nevada, United Equipment Rental, Ahern Equipment Rental and TR construction.

Technology instructors Richard Henry, Bill Oney and Mark Lera will supervise the students during the construction process.