President Simon (far right) stands on the porch of Sparty’s Cabin, along with Tiffany Pupa (on Simon’s left), and other important members of the building team for the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

“Really what we learned through this process is don’t be afraid to ask.”

Tiffany Pupa, an interior design senior in the School of Planning, Design and Construction, stood with President Lou Anna K.Simon on a small porch with a giant pair of scissors. The ribbon-cutting ceremony honored Sparty’s Cabin, a tiny house construction project led by Pupa.  

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President Simon (far right) stands on the porch of Sparty’s Cabin, along with Tiffany Pupa (on Simon’s left), and other important members of the building team for the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

At 177 square feet, with the interior walls six feet apart and a trailer that is 20 feet by eight feet, a “tiny house” doesn’t mean a cozy starter home. It is literally a tiny house built as part of a social movement. People downsize to make an environmental point and to cut out the excess amount of money spent on material things in life like large houses.

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The project started after Pupa attended a regional conference for the MSU chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council for students, where they discuss sustainability practices in construction.

After not being able to fall asleep in the car on the way back from the conference, Pupa thought about a photo of a tiny house tour at the event. She then wondered if she could make one.

So, she contacted Pat Crawford, the associate director of the School of Planning, Design and Construction, worked out a research proposal overnight and met with Crawford the next day. The project was on.

“From there, it just grew organically, everybody who needed to get on the project, got on,” Pupa said. “Everybody who volunteered and took on a leadership role did that because of their passion, because of their interest, because they believe in the project and what it stands for -- sustainability and ‘Spartans Will.’ Everybody really has that pride and it’s embodied into every piece of this house.”

And, as President Simon said at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, the house may be small, but the passion embedded in its walls is what made it so big.

“It doesn’t have to be big to make a big impact, because things small like this house can reflect the University’s values,” President Simon said in her speech at the ceremony. “Things small, like this house, can propel the students who were part of the teams into careers and making an even bigger impact than Sparty’s Cabin on the world, because we were prepared to try.”

With such a hands-on experience, Pupa said the majority of the students who worked on the project gained skills they otherwise wouldn’t have encountered at school -- most of the students had never even picked up a hammer.

“The students really did gain a lot of confidence because there’s something about building something with your hands and seeing it come to fruition, and seeing not only that you built it, but that it works and it’s functional and people can use it and live in it. I just can’t think of any other process that’s like that,” Pupa said.

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A lot of the confidence came from students managing and teaching other students. Pupa said there were 10-15 students on the core building team who were in charge of managing their own smaller teams and teaching them what to do, how to do it and how to be productive about it.

The project, built mostly out of the Surplus Store, may not have direct relations to MakerSpaces on campus. But it’s the ideas and the resourcefulness in the design of Sparty’s Cabin that connects Pupa to the mission of MakerSpaces.

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The long line of ceremony attendees wait to take a tour of the tiny house, entirely made by students.

Pupa said taking advantage of MSU’s resources was easy, especially because every person and department was so willing to help. She used Infrastructure Planning and Facilities as an example, which lent the students tools -- “lots and lots of tools.” The Construction Management Lab also lent Pupa’s team tools.

The Surplus Store housed and “saved” the project, Pupa said, even offering carpenters who taught and worked with the students on more complicated pieces of the house.

There will be other Spartans on campus that are going to be right onboard and they will not skip a beat. They will be there,” Pupa said. And even if they’re not directly involved, they’ll help you in some way.”

For more information on other resources the Surplus Store offers, visit: http://msusurplusstore.com/