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Engineering Students Create Tasty KU Landmark for Charity Auction

Friday, December 3, 2010

A small-scale, 100-percent edible replica of a University of Kansas campus landmark goes up for auction next week in downtown Lawrence. 

A group of Self Engineering Leadership Fellows from the School of Engineering baked a gingerbread version of Danforth Chapel to raise money for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Douglas County.

Shredded-wheat masonry, chewing gum shingles, melted Red Hots for stained glass, a gumdrop lane and a dusting of coconut snowfall are among the ingredients that make up the SELF Fellows’ delectable Danforth.

The project was a joint effort of the freshman and junior class SELF Fellows. Each class of fellows must undertake a community service project every semester. About 25 students put in a total of 50 hours on designing, constructing and decorating the tasty landmark. Nicole Rissky, a freshman SELF Fellow in chemical engineering from Tecumseh, put her engineering skills to work in the baking and construction of the gingerbread chapel.

“Most of us had never built an extensive gingerbread house,” Rissky said. “There’s a lot that goes into it. We had to replace our original roof to get it just right and make a few other late additions, but it’s for such a great cause. It was a lot of fun and a good chance to bond with our peers.”

SELF Program Director Lucy McGilley said the students were looking for a new and creative way to give back to the community during the holidays while utilizing some of their engineering expertise. “I think it is critical to help our students understand the importance of sharing their time to help others,” McGilley said. “We encourage them often to give back in appreciation for all they have been given.”

Rissky said the SELF Fellows would love to see their gingerbread Danforth auction off for $1,000, but they’d still be happy with half that amount.

The Eldridge Hotel Gingerbread Festival and Auction opens to public viewing at noon today at the Eldridge Extended, 201 W. Eighth Street. The viewings run through Dec. 7. There’s no charge, but officials request a donation. The houses will be auctioned at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 8. Tickets for that event are $40. Last year’s auction raised nearly $35,000 for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Douglas County.

The SELF Program is made possible through the generous donation of 1943 KU chemical engineering graduate Madison “Al” Self and his wife, Lila. It’s designed to develop engineering and computer science graduates who are goal-oriented and bring the entrepreneurship, business skills and vision needed to guide technology-based corporations. The program enables students to refine their skills through mentoring and academic and leadership opportunities.

One of 34 U.S. public institutions in the prestigious Association of American Universities
44 nationally ranked graduate programs.
—U.S. News & World Report
Top 50 nationwide for size of library collection.
5th nationwide for service to veterans —"Best for Vets: Colleges," Military Times