How do you know you have a good plan? For football star James Develin, it’s one that allows for a pivot. As both an athlete and an entrepreneur, sometimes you get spun 180 degrees in an unexpected direction, and you must react with speed and imagination in order to achieve the goal.
“I retired right into COVID,” James shared with students during last month’s episode of the “Make It Big” webinar series. “Which was not the greatest timing.”
In April 2020, James officially announced his retirement after an impressive eight-year career as a fullback with the New England Patriots that saw him pave the way for three Super Bowl titles with the team. Since then, he has been collaborating with Autodesk on the #AutodeskMakeItReal program for youth, which this year is inspired by his dream of designing and building a rehabilitation and fitness center in his home state of Pennsylvania.
Initially James envisioned his next step post-NFL to be as the designer and operator of a gleaming new 30,000-square-foot facility that he built himself from the ground up. However, as the global pandemic struck, “I saw in the fitness field a lot of ‘big box’ gyms with big footprints had a hard time,” said James. “They struggled being closed down because their real estate was too expensive.”
Rather than being discouraged, James says he used COVID as a learning experience.
“I started breaking down the whole idea into smaller footprint ideas,” said James. His sight is now set on developing a collection of smaller 2,000-square-foot fitness studios spread out in different locations in the Philadelphia area to test out his business model before he invests in the ultimate grand vision, which he is confident will still happen. “The dream is not dead,” James said.
James also announced the winners of the second student design contest, which asked students to use an engineering mindset to help James refine his idea. James thanked students for helping him continue to reimagine what’s possible for health and fitness through rethinking the built environment. He praised winners for including features like living walls, a roof garden, an in-house cafe, solar panels, a water recovery system, and gender inclusive bathrooms.
Student winners such as grayCS06 showed how a gym design can work for the environment, for the surrounding community, and for people with disabilities.
James also introduced the final contest, which challenges students to apply a safety mindset, project management skills, and sustainability literacy to help James craft a construction plan for his gym.
The webinar also included demonstrations from Autodesk employees on how construction professionals are using new tools to drive a more sustainable, safe, and efficient industry.
The webinar showed how you can use Tinkercad to place a design in a specific site.
Autodesk Senior Learning Content Developer Jeff Hanson used Revit to describe building details like structural, exterior wall, and roofing systems with inspiration from student contest winner Josiah Miller's Tinkercad model.
FormIt Product Manager Heather Lech demonstrated a workflow from Infraworks to FormIt to bring real 3D context into a construction site logistics plan.
Joe Fields, Deployment Specialist for Autodesk Construction Solutions, showed how construction professionals use tools like Navisworks to analyze a design to detect potential building clashes like in ductwork and plumbing.
"It's truly incredible how much technology helps the construction field," said James.
Students and educators are encouraged to join the next webinar, where they will be introduced to a diverse panel of construction professionals, including representatives from Gilbane Building Company and the Northeast Center for Tradeswomens’ Equity, who are innovating the built environment.
This is a chance for students to ask questions to James and the panel that will bring their skills to the next level. They will also find out how college students from Wentworth Insitute of Technology are applying affordable housing principles to build a better world.