How SDAF’s BEEP Program is Inspiring the Next Generation

At the root of Laura DuCharme Conboy’s architectural career is a simple love. A love for making things. It goes back to her high school drafting class, where she developed a passion for drawing. Whether she’s crafting 3-D cakes in the kitchen or designing award-winning, high-end residences, Conboy long has found fulfillment in fashioning the built environment at all levels.

Eventually, her passion led to a career, and as the owner of DuCharme Architecture, an SDAF partner, her business has thrived for 29 years. Conboy also is a San Diego Architectural Foundation board member. She has a vested interest in bringing a love of architecture to the next generation, and she’s doing it through SDAF’s Built Environment Education Program (BEEP) for kids.

“Design happens at the micro scale or the macro scale, whether it’s a culinary dish or a house,” Conboy says. “The evolution of an idea is motivating, and it’s rewarding to see it executed.”

At its heart, BEEP is a program at the “micro” level, engaging youth in hands-on activities such as sketching and small-scale construction projects.

“Learning to sketch engages their minds,” Conboy says. “BEEP sets out to make kids aware of the world surrounding them, to look at things more closely when they walk into a space and become aware of how it makes them feel.”

BEEP’s signature event of the year, KidsSketch (hosted as part of OH! San Diego), attracted more than 60 youth to Coronado and La Jolla, as students in grades 3 to 12 turned out to sketch nearby buildings and structures. The goal is to inspire young minds to care about the built environment, so that as they grow they can have a voice in how their communities develop.

During San Diego Design Week this September, representatives from SDAF’s BEEP program will lead kids in building geodesic domes, like the ones made famous by acclaimed architect Buckminster Fuller. The participants, however, will be making the domes on a much smaller scale, from toothpicks and gumdrops.

For her part, Conboy savors the chance to share her enthusiasm for architecture with young people, letting them know how rewarding the profession is, and how interesting life can be when you understand your surroundings.

A geodesic dome project with the Brownies

While the BEEP program may not impact San Diego’s actual built environment anytime soon, it’s about inspiring kids to think about their potential impact on the built environment earlier in life.

Says Conboy: “Hopefully our impact will be felt when young people look up from their devices at the world around them, become concerned and interested, and then realize that they can shape their own built environments in the future.”

Learn more about SDAF’s Built Environment Education Program here.


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