Every time St. Mary's Elementary School principal Nancy Hicks drove by the school in the last month, she noted the progress of construction on a new shade structure on the south side of the school. 

Wednesday, that shade structure was officially handed over as completed by those who designed and built it — Pittsburg State students. And its presence will continue long after the students graduate.

"Now you have a legacy forever. It'll be here for years and years and years," St. Mary's kindergarten teacher Donna Landrith.

Those responsible for this shade structure were James Crabtree and Matthew Barr, PSU construction students. The students were doing it as a senior service project, and the project took them most of the semester.

"We met with Nancy at the first, and she told us what she was looking for. We came out and looked at what area she wanted it in. We didn't quite know what structure she was looking for at first," Crabtree said. "We looked at some premanufactured structures, but then designed a couple of our own, and an economical wood one, and she liked that one."

After pricing the materials and estimating the labor they'd need, Crabtree and Barr went to work. But even that work was not without its snags. One of the first projects was to place the foundation posts in. When they dug into the playground, they ran into a few surprises, not the soil they were expecting.

"We found concrete, mortar, and rocks about six inches wide," Crabtree said. "We had to put in 30-plus man-hours just to get the posts and foundation in. We'd estimated six."

The finished product ended up being exactly what Hicks was hoping when she signed up for the project.

"Talking with the teachers, the idea is we needed a place of shade, especially when it's hot," Hicks said. "We have just a little bit of money left from a grant, we're thinking about putting little tables for preschoolers. The teachers are excited, because on a nice day, they can take the kids outside, and eat or sit outside. In August and September, it gets really hot out here compared to the other playground. This gives the kids a little break. We want them outside."

This isn't the only PSU capstone project that has been done in the community in recent years. The 20th Street bike shelter, several projects at Kiwanis Park and Leffler Rotary Park have also been done by senior capstone projects.

Although it may be too cold this week for playing outside, the shade structure will come in handy later. Hicks said she's pleased with the results.

"If I was grading you, I'd give you A's," Hicks said.