Every year, sophomores in the Illustration Department take part in the "Rail Project" led by Professor and Department Chair Steve Mayse. I asked Steve recently about how the Rail Project came about and why he has the students take on such a unique endeavor. "The "Rail Project" was born out of what I felt in the program was a need for pure creative problem solving or solution finding, using simple materials (cardboard and glue, only), a break from the norm and a chance to revitalize the effort toward team-building and away from an emphasis on the art form result serving only the self. As illustration majors, most students find the assignment a bit of a nuisance, generally, but I believe in the end, they realize the significance of the off-track (no pun intended) experience and how important collaboration/team, play, exploration, invention and discovery is to their overall artistic experience."
Students usually have about 3-4 weeks to build their vehicle that will carry their weight, roll (somehow) or move down the "rail" and survive the test from start to finish. They have to be in it or on it. Each student is assisted by other students down the "rail" for safety reasons and for the team-building effort.
Steve made the "rail" and the stands out of scrap 2"x4"s. The length is approximately 80' long and the rail is elevated 18" off of the ground with a secure stand every 4 feet. The stands are secured to the ground with 8" nails to eliminate any movement and the rail is screwed to the stands with 2.5" screws. The system goes up in about an hour and tears down in about 30 minutes. Steve calls the assignment the "yougottobeinit" project. Every year, Steve prints everyone a t-shirt to commemorate the event; they are different every year. This is used as a way for the media (KC Star and tv stations) to identify the project participants for interview and photos.
Click on the image below for a short slideshow. Photos by Steve Mayse.