About 120 middle-schoolers from Lake and Porter counties assembled Friday at Ivy Tech for a summer project that will test their math and science skills and help feed the hungry.
The Superheroes Against Hunger “canstruction” competition is hosted by Lake Area United Way and United Way of Porter County. U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Merrillville, was there Friday morning to help kick off the competition.
“This is what’s perfect about Northwest Indiana,” he said, referring to the universities, business, nonprofit agencies and trade unions collaborating on the project.
Visclosky said the food to be used in the competition will be the equivalent of about 42,000 meals. It will ultimately go to the Food Bank of Northwest Indiana.
“People too often don’t recognize we have hungry people in Northwest Indiana,” Visclosky said.
Participants are in 10 teams and represent YMCAs, Boys and Girls Clubs, the Boy Scouts and Campagna Academy.
The students will use the STEM disciplines – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – to design and build canned-food sculptures with a superhero theme. Friday’s day-long Design Camp gave students the opportunity to plan their projects.
“Everyone in this room is going to be an engineer today,” said Sharon Kish, president of United Way of Porter County, during the opening event, which included skits and a quiz acquainting students with the extent of the hunger problem in the region.
Tyler Polarek, 12, a member of the South Haven Boys and Girls Club, said he got involved in the canstruction competition after doing various craft projects at the club, and being active in the service organization Torch Club.
“I think it’ll be really fun,” he said.
The students saw photos of projects done in canstruction contests in other areas that showed the creativity involved.
“They’re fantastic,” said Sanja Kirova, 13, a member of the Portage Boys and Girls Club. “I was interested to see how they build them.”
She said her team was thinking about an Indiana-related design.
The students will also learn some budgeting lessons – they’ll have a $2,500 budget to apply to the cans of food, said volunteer coach Tim Sanders of Purdue University Calumet, one of the competition’s sponsors.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Sanders said. “My job will be to allow them to be as creative as they want and to work together.”
A Virtual Camp on July 17 and 18 at Purdue University Calumet’s Center for Innovation Through Visualization and Simulation facility will provide the teams the opportunity to create three-dimensional images of their structures.
On July 25, the teams will build their designs at Southlake Mall in Hobart. The public will be invited to vote for their favorites July 26 through Aug. 2.
“I can’t wait to see the final results,” Visclosky said.