What do you get when you combine 900 wildly enthusiastic undergraduate students from 70 colleges and universities with 29 horticultural competitive events in a landscaping Olympics? The marvelous mayhem of the PLANET (Professional Landcare Network) Student Career Days. Last week, three of my colleagues; Brad Rowe, Tom Fernandez, Marcus Duck, and I traveled to Atlanta with 15 Michigan State University Horticulture students to compete at the 34th annual PLANET student Career Days hosted by Chattahoochee Technical College. The Student Career Days incorporates an array of activities including tours, workshops, speaker presentations and a career fair. But the unquestioned highlight of the event is the student competition. Students compete in 29 landscape horticulture events ranging from arboriculture to computer aided landscape design. Some events require physical skills such as paver construction and landscape installation; while other such as plant identification and sale presentation test the student’s plant knowledge or interpersonal communication skills. The logistics for the host school and event sponsors is truly staggering. For example, in the Landscape Installation event, 50 three-person teams are given a 12’ x 20’ plot of ground, identical landscape plans, and identical sets of plant materials (a 15 gallon tree, shrubs, annuals, sod) and given 2 hours to complete the installation. Likewise, in paver construction and wood construction, 50 two-person teams are given identical supplies, tools and a design and must complete the project in less than two hours. Awards are presented to the top three students in each event and the top ten teams overall. Beyond the awards, however, the program offers tremendous opportunities for student to network with industry leaders, meet and compete with students across the country, and challenge themselves and build confidence. We Garden Professors are sometimes given to being a bit curmudgeonly but spending a few days at this event will definitely restore ones faith and enthusiasm in the next generation.
For the record; Chattahoochee Technical College was this year’s SCD Champion followed by perennial powers BYU-Provo and BYU-Idaho. Michigan State was 10th.
Mitch Zost tackles tree climbing in the Arboriculture event
The Lanscape Installation event is the final and culminating event of the Student Career days. Think of the 4 x 400 relay with shrubs and annuals…
Zeke Kadish negotiates the treacherous Truck and Trailer course.
MSU Horticulture faculty members Brad Rowe, Tom Fernandez, and Marcus Duck capture the action for posterity.
Joel Franken found out that accidents can happen during irrigation assembly.