Middle School Students Work Together For a Good Cause in Canstruction Competition

By: Mona Sehgal Last Updated: July 25, 2014

Have No Fear, Canstruction is Here!

On July 25, Lake Area United Way and the United Way of Porter County, in cooperation with Congressman Pete Visclosky, came together to host a “Superheroes Against Hunger” Canstruction competition at Southlake Mall. The competitors consisted of middle school students from throughout Lake and Porter countries who used the academic disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) to design and build these structure made entirely out of canned food. At the conclusion of the competition, all food items were donated to the Food Bank of Northwest Indiana and ultimately local food pantries.

Shellie Dell, Relationship Manager at Lake Area United Way, was thrilled to see all of the students immersed in their projects.

“This is a great program because if you look around, you’ll see nine different teams from all over Lake and Porter County working together for a great cause. They’ve had three days to complete the project. The first day was a design camp, the second day was a virtual camp which was held at Purdue Calumet, and today they’re building. Seeing it all come together is amazing. These students are using all of the STEM elements,” she stated.

Purdue University Northwest- Calumet Campus and Purdue University Northwest- North Central Campus were signature sponsors of Canstruction Northwest Indiana. brought their designs to life in an exciting five-hour competition. Each team was responsible for building a structure that creatively interprets the superhero theme, using canned food items, while not altering the food labels.

“The students are building structures that go along with the theme of superheroes. They’re making these structures out of almost 40,000 pounds of food. I’m really proud of the kids because they’ve put in a lot of thought and hard work. The coaches who helped them throughout this whole project were several community leaders- volunteers, engineers, architects, and we have one lawyer.” stated Sharon Kish, President of United Way of Porter County.

The teams that attended were the Boys Scouts Calumet Council, Southlake YMCA, Cedar Lake Boys and Girls Club, Griffith YMCA, Portage Boys & Girls Club, Valparaiso Boys & Girls Club, South Haven Boys & Girls Club, Campagna Academy, and Duneland Boys & Girls Club & Duneland Family YMCA.

Celina Weatherwax, Communications Director for Congressman Pete Visclosky, stated, “This initiative shows our youth that they can use the STEM disciplines they learned to help others in the community. It’s really all about giving back to the Northwest Indiana community.”

Each of the teams was given $2,500 to spend of food for the competition. The sponsors included Porter and Lake United Ways, BMWC Constructors, McAfee Animal Hospital, Enbridge, Task Force Tips, and Lakeside Wealth Management.

10-year-old Sierra Williams from the Griffith YMCA was all smiles, all day long. The superhero their structure focused on was Captain America.

“I like being the boss and helping my teammates complete the building. The food we’re using is going to Food Bank of Northwest Indiana, which is good because there are a lot of kids and adults who don't have food,” Williams stated.

Incorporating knowledge while helping others is a rewarding experience for anyone, especially for these bright young students.

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