Unique Project Promotes Manufacturing Careers to High School Students

There’s nothing miniature about the project to rebuild the iconic mini-golf course at tornado-ravaged Hillcrest Golf Center.

Students at eight area high schools and Illinois Central College, working with their teachers and members of the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council’s Strategic Manufacturing Group, have designed and are building 10 holes for the 18-hole course that opened in 1958.

“I’m overwhelmed,” said Hillcrest owner Brian Brubaker, who is looking forward to a June 27 grand re-opening of the mini-golf course.

Hillcrest was in the path of the EF-4 twister that tore through Washington on Nov. 17, 2013, and sustained extensive damage. The Washington Road facility’s 18-hole executive golf course reopened June 17, 2014, and the driving range reopened July 9, 2014. A new maintenance building was completed Dec. 14, 2014, and a new clubhouse and pro shop opened last week. All that’s left is the rebirth of the mini-golf course.

Students from Eureka, Illini Bluffs, Limestone, Metamora Township, Morton, Pekin Community and Washington Community high schools and the Woodruff Career and Technical Center in Peoria are building mini-golf holes, most as a class project. Washington is doing two holes.

“Brian (Brubaker) needed 10 holes to replace the ones that were damaged the most, and that’s what happened. We didn’t have to twist any arms for more volunteers,” said Michael Sloan, dean of agriculture and industrial technology at ICC and an SMG group member.

Each of the student groups has been paired with a professional from the SMG and presented plans to Brubaker, Sloan and Cathy Lane, wife of a Hillcrest member who came up with the idea for the project, earlier this year before beginning construction.

“We gave them critical feedback,” Sloan said. “Some holes were too elaborate. Many had safety issues. You have to imagine that kids are going to be climbing on the holes.

“The feedback has been only part of the educational experience for the students. They’re learning teamwork, project management, meeting deadlines and communication skills.”
Brubaker said he didn’t want to dampen the students’ creativity when he analyzed their plans. He was mainly concerned about safety.

Pekin’s hole probably will be the first to be installed, Sloan said.

Beau Shepard, a career and technical education teacher at the school, hand-picked five seniors to do the project. They are Damia Crocker, Danny Haynes, Dillon Howser, Ben Ringel and Andi Saban.
The hole features a castle and a dragon, Pekin’s mascot. The dragon is 6 feet long and made of steel. Shepard said there were concerns about the dragon’s scales being sharp, and the students have corrected the problem.

“We’ve tried to make the hole simple, durable and aesthetically pleasing,” Shepard said.

as reported by the Peoria Journal Star on May 17, 2015