TAD School Builds Modular City to Help Criminal Justice Plan Response Situations

Bemidji State’s Department of Criminal Justice will begin the spring semester with a customizable model city to help students visualize how first responders might manage emergency situations.

The city features color-coded buildings representing private residences, schools, office complexes and other types of buildings to help students visualize a neighborhood. Buildings magnetically attach to a metal base, allowing criminal justice faculty to reconfigure neighborhoods to suit the lesson being taught. The city’s modular nature will allow for limitless expansion or revisions in the future by adding new building types, vegetation, water features or any other object the faculty wish to incorporate into their lessons.

Dr. Mike Herbert, professor of criminal justice, said the idea for the city came to him last summer when he was considering ways to expand on the department’s courses in emergency management.

“Taking the example that emergency managers use now, they all have these table-top setups where you can set up a mock disaster or a crime scene or whatever it happens to be,” he said. “We can set this up and have the students problem-solve while looking at a 3-D model as opposed to a picture or something like that.”

The department collaborated with BSU’s School of Technology, Art and Design on the project. The model city was designed and built by Reid Mordhorst, a senior engineering technology major from Maple Grove, Minn., and Kyle Lempia, a senior from Bemidji majoring in engineering technology and applied engineering.

The students machined the buildings out of high-density foam, which were used as masters for moulds of the final plastic buildings.

“We wanted to use a bunch of different aspects of manufacturing,” Mordhorst said. “We wanted to try and involve most of the labs here on campus – so from the metal lab to the plastics lab, wood, everything was utilized. We started making one house at a time and then we’d make a master mould, so by the end we were making 25 houses at a time – so it really speeds the process up.”

Mordhorst, who graduates from BSU this semester, says he’s excited to leave behind a project that will help future students benefit from what he has learned.

“I’m going to take so much away from being at Bemidji State, and it’s cool to be able to leave a mark for others to do just as good as I did,” he said. “I think it’ll be something where maybe 10 years from now I come back and it’s still being used and I can tell whoever I’m with, ‘hey, I made that.’”