1000 x 90

Appalachian Students Build Research Structure at Beech Mountain

This mobiLANDING was designed and built by Appalachian State University students. Photo by Marie Freeman.


Students enrolled in the Integrative Design Experience Laboratory (IDEXlab) at Appalachian State University have completed the mobiLANDING, a sheltered workspace located at the university’s Small Wind Research and Demonstration Site on Beech Mountain.

The mobiLANDING is a docking station for the MOBILab, the university’s energy-independent mobile classroom built in 2015. mobiLANDING provides a storage facility and covered space for workshops and trainings hosted at the Small Wind Research and Demonstration Site. The structure consists of a concrete foundation, locally sourced lumber for the decking and trusses, corrugated metal roofing and bifacial solar panels. The solar panels power the lighting for the structure and tie back into the electrical grid.

A small team of graduate students began the project in 2017 under the guidance of Jason Miller, associate professor in Appalachian’s Department of Sustainable Technology and the Built Environment. The project culminated with the mobiLANDING’s grand opening on April 27.

During spring 2018, 15 undergraduate students, along with three graduate students, took the concept designed in 2017 and built the physical structure. Led by Miller, along with practitioner-in-residence Chelsea Helms and associate professor Dr. Jamie Russell, both faculty in the Department of Sustainable Technology and the Built Environment, the group met their goal of establishing an interactive learning community that showcases sustainable building practices and facilitates research.


Dean Phyllis Kloda of the College of Fine and Applied Arts speaks at the structure’s recent grand opening. Photo by Marie Freeman.


According to Helms, the mobiLANDING project provided unparalleled experiential learning. She estimates the students spent approximately 3,500 hours building the structure, often in extreme weather.

“In this particular experience, the students rose to a new level of passion and dedication, overcoming some of the harshest weather conditions in IDEXlab project history,” she said. “These students are what make these projects reality, and they have, yet again, transformed a design idea into a product that will impact the community by providing a learning platform for wind research and education.” 


Signatures adorn a section of the mobiLANDING structure. All students who worked on the project signed their name. Photo by Marie Freeman.


IDEXlab project manager Christian Najafi, a senior from Hendersonville majoring in building sciences, is grateful for both the leadership experience and the hands-on nature of the work.

“Being a team leader has given me great experience that I will be able to apply in the workforce,” he shared. “The most valuable thing I learned is that with good leadership, even seemingly impossible tasks can be completed. If something doesn’t work out the first time, then come up with another solution. Don’t give up too quickly.”


The MOBILab logo on the side of the newly constructed mobiLANDING structure. Photo by Marie Freeman.