6th-graders brainstorm parking solution for SDSU

Emma Dejong

Emma Dejong

It is not exactly breaking news that many students are having problems with the parking situation on campus. However, people outside of the college are also recognizing these problems.

Eight sixth-grade boys from Mickelson Middle School make up The Mickelson Pathfinders, a group that improves its engineering skills through practice and competition.

On Jan. 9, they participated in an all-day competition in Sioux Falls. For one of the categories, they were required to come up with a project that addresses transportation, and they decided to focus on SDSU.

“That’s pretty much where Brookings as a whole has a parking problem,” Pathfinders member Jesse Thue said.

The main requirement the team had was to focus on the transportation theme, but the judges “like it to be personalized,” said Deb Petrick, instructor of the enrichment class for grades 4-8 at Mickelson Middle School and Camelot Intermediate School.

The kids looked at multiple solutions, weighing the cost and benefits. When considering a parking garage, they found that it would cost roughly $15,000 per space, making a 4,000 car garage about $60 million.

Deciding this would be too expensive, they said in their presentation that “a more economical solution would be an additional paved surface lot which would only cost $4,000 per space.” This would cost about $16 million.

After much brainstorming, they decided the best solution would be to add a lot by the Performing Arts Center, Coughlin-Alumni Stadium and the Wellness Center where a Brookings Area Transit Authority bus station would also be located. Students could then be transported to main locations around campus.

The students concluded that what really needs to improve is the cooperation between SDSU and the Brookings community.

“The college isn’t going to fix the problem on their own and the community isn’t going to fix anything on their own,” Tony Nielson, Pathfinders coach and volunteer dad, said. “They have to work together.”

Petrick added that there needs to be a common understanding.

“The city feels that there’s a problem,” she said. “SDSU doesn’t feel there’s a problem.”

This was the Pathfinders’ first competition, and Petrick said “they did really well.” Although they were not awarded with a top place, Petrick thought they made the top third.

With Nielson’s help, the team contacted many SDSU officials, including people from SDSUPD and Facilities and Services.

“They’re doing real-world stuff,” Nielson, also an agricultural engineering major, said. “This is a pretty involved thing when you’re talking sixth graders.”