The treads and heavy tires grumbled across the Kansas Technology Center parking lot. Mounds of dirt changed shape and size throughout the day. Heavy machinery scooped and lifted, tilted and toiled.

"It's an adult playground, that's what it is," said Terry Maddox, Pittsburg State construction management junior.

The adult playground was actually something of a learning lab on Wednesday as PSU construction management students got their hands on a number of pieces of heavy equipment in a teaching environment.

"One of the main reasons for this is to expose the students to equipment operations. It's to expose the students to not only different types of equipment, but different companies," said Chad Crain, PSU research technologist. "From Volvo to Bobcat, they're totally different. They're the same control, but they operate totally different."

This was the second year for the construction rodeo, but the variety of equipment only grew. This year's list of equipment included a riding power trowel. plate compactors, a "Jumping Jack" compactor, a Ditch Witch front end loader, two aerial lifts, a 61-meter concrete pump truck, and more. It's about 9-10 additional pieces than last year, but that also includes the traditional pieces, like a tilt trailer, mini excavators, skid steers and Georgia buggies.

Crain said that there are a number of lessons learned by getting students behind the controls.

"They're doing full transfer to another loader, and having to move it from Point A to Point B. They're learning about cycle times," Crain said. "We want them to be as safe as possible, but move as much as possible, too. Every kid gets on it, and says they're not going to be very good. It doesn't matter, because this is how you become good."

Crain noted that on an actual work site, students won't be given time to "play around" and learn the controls of the equipment. When it comes to the work site, workers are expected to be ready to go with their equpment.

"It's all about money, time and production," Crain said. "It's also a fun play day for them. Almost all the teachers involved have let their classes out for the day to come out."

The day is made possible by companies who provide the equipment for the day to Pittsburg State. That includes four pieces from Volvo Rents, two aerials from Sunshine Rentals, and the cement pump from ACI Concrete Placement, and many more items.

Students said they enjoyed the opportunity to have a safe place to learn the controls while also "playing around" a bit.

"This is not something you really learn from a textbook. You've got to get out and do it," said Sam Kinkelaar, PSU construction management senior.