skip to main content

inside Architecture + Design summer program creates Hokies for life

July 31, 2017

Students prepare their work for the Brick Challenge.

Students building brick challenge structure
Students in the inside Architecture + Design summer program for high schoolers build their structure for the "Brick Challenge" competition. The popular outreach program is entering its 20th year in 2018.

When Sue Jung came to Virginia Tech’s campus as a high school sophomore attending the inside Architecture + Design summer academy in 2012, she remembers arriving “lost and confused.”

After a week of college-level design work in the top-ranked national program, Jung returned home to Centerville, Virginia, single-minded on becoming an architect and earning a degree from Virginia Tech’s School of Architecture + Design.

“The open studio environment at inside Architecture + Design became the ‘must’ factor when I was looking into colleges, and no other school satisfied my expectation except for Virginia Tech,” recalled Jung. “I enjoyed and cherished every single moment. After spending a week with such a passionate group of faculty and peers, I clearly grasped that I enjoyed architecture and wanted to be in a design-related field in the future.”

Now a rising fourth-year architecture student at Virginia Tech, Jung relived her experience this summer as a teaching assistant for the program’s 19th year.

Jung was one of a dozen Virginia Tech students and alumni assisting professors of architecture, landscape architecture, interior design, and industrial design in five action-packed days of design learning and exploration, June 25 – 30.

The program included 110 students from three countries and 13 states.

Students work in open studio during the week-long architecture and design program.

Students in studio
Students work in the open studio environment during the week-long architecture and design program.

Founded and led by Professors Robert and Donna Dunay since 1998, inside Architecture + Design has yielded over 1,400 graduates in its 19-year history. Students live in Virginia Tech residence halls for a week and get a taste of the nationally renowned first-year studio taken by undergraduates.

“It’s been a really fun experience learning to think like a designer and an architect,” said Gabe Lester, a student from Palo Alto, California. “I’ve been to a couple of camps at Stanford and I like this campus a whole lot better. It feels more ‘homey.’ I want to come back because I really like the campus.”

“I think I got a good taste of the college experience,” said Micah Holdsworth, a student from Turkey. “I enjoyed working on developing a mind and an eye for geometry and shapes – the base for studying architecture and approaching school as an architect.”

In addition to exploring intellectual and constructive aspects of architecture and the world of design, the students spent their days immersed in activities like the “Marshmallow Challenge,” a team competition to build the tallest freestanding structure using spaghetti, string, tape, and a marshmallow. They also sketched the city of Venice, Italy, from a giant satellite image; created elaborate paper constructs and soaring towers with impressive structural integrity; and competed in the “Brick Challenge,” in which teams of four collaborated to build the lightest possible structure to support a brick using only toothpicks and glue. 

Students build their spaghetti towers for the "Marshmallow Challenge."

Students build spaghetti towers for the Marshmallow Challenge
Students team up to build spaghetti towers for the "Marshmallow Challenge."

inside Architecture + Design has become a most effective recruitment tool for the school, attracting the best and brightest minds to the program and university,” said Robert Dunay. “It started with four students to serve the local public schools, and grew quickly into a national program simply by word of mouth. We continue year after year, because it helps us inform our teaching by staying in close touch with the creativity of the younger student. In addition, it fulfills a critical role of the university through engagement, and serving the increasing demand of prospective high school students.”

Dunay said 50 current students in Virginia Tech’s School of Architecture + Design are alumni of the summer program.

“Returning as teaching assistant for inside Architecture + Design allowed me to relive an experience that made me who I am today,” said Sue Jung. “I enjoyed every single second of it and learned so much from the students. If I were to pick a favorite moment, it would be witnessing the students’ and parents’ excitement on the day of final exhibition. I’m honored to be part of their fruitful experience at CAUS.”

The 2018 summer program will open for registration in early 2018, on a first-come, first-served basis. Rising 10th, 11th, and 12th graders are eligible. To be added to the notification list, email Taylor Cupp at taylorcupp@vt.edu. Find out more information here.

Brick Challenge

Students test their structures in the brick challenge.
The "Brick Challenge" competition allowed student teams to test the strength of their structures, which were made using only toothpicks, glue, and tape.

Murphy Mitchell readies his structure to endure the Brick Challenge before classmates.

Murphy Mitchell readies his structure to endure the Brick Challenge before classmates.
Murphy Mitchell readies his structure to endure the Brick Challenge before classmates.

Students sketch Venice

Students sketch Venice, Italy, from a large-scale satellite map in the Architecture + Design Library.
Students sketch Venice, Italy, from a large-scale satellite map in the Architecture + Design Library.

Professor Donna Dunay with student Jaylen Wooten

Professor Donna Dunay discusses and assignment with student Jaylen Wooten.
Professor Donna Dunay discusses an assignment with iA+D student Jaylen Wooten.

One student's response to the task of creating a construct using 25 strips of paper.

One student's response to the task of creating a construct using 25 strips of paper.
One student's response to the task of creating a construct using 25 strips of paper.

Another student construct using 25 strips of paper.

Another student construct using 25 strips of paper.
Another student's response to the assignment of creating a construct using 25 strips of paper.

Students created paper towers using concepts explored in class to address pattern and sequence.

Students created paper towers using concepts explored in class to address pattern and sequence.
Students created paper towers using concepts explored in class to address pattern and sequence.

Aagna Patel and Lauren McGovern work on their Brick Challenge structure.

Lauren McGovern and Aagna Patel work on their Brick Challenge structure.
Lauren McGovern and Aagna Patel work on their Brick Challenge structure.

Students in the open studio.

Students in the A+D open studio.
Students in the A+D open studio.

Professor Marylou Veillard gives iA + D students a briefing on structure during the evening studio.

Professor Marylou Veillard gives iA + D students a briefing on structure during the evening studio.
Professor Marylou Veillard gives iA + D students a briefing on structure during the evening studio.

Hokie families at the final student exhibition.

Hokie families at the final student exhibition.
Hokie families at the final student exhibition.

Brianna Laverty proudly shows off her work to her family, including dad, Kevin (right), a 1998 mechanical engineering alumnus.

Brianna Laverty proudly shows off her work to her family, including dad, Kevin (right), a 1998 mechanical engineering alumnus.
Brianna Laverty proudly shows off her work to her family, including dad, Kevin (right), a 1998 mechanical engineering alumnus.

Professor Bob Dunay

Professor Robert Dunay, co-founder of the iA+D program, leads a class.
Professor Robert Dunay, co-founder of the iA+D program, leads a class.

Shot of the 2017 IAD class.

Shot of students in front of Cowgill Hall.
The 2017 Inside Architecture + Design class included 110 students from three countries and 13 states.

Contact: