HAMMOND | Middle schoolers from throughout Northwest Indiana have gathered at Purdue University Calumet’s Center for Visualization and Simulation to get a realistic look at the designs they’ve created for the “Canstruction”
The project has the students building structures of canned food as tall as 7 feet. The students, along with their coaches, saw three-dimensional simulations of their designs, created by Purdue University engineering students on the CIVS computer design system.
The competition is sponsored by the Lake Area United Way, United Way of Porter County, and U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky.
On Thursday morning, teams from the Calumet Council of Boy Scouts, YWCA Northwest Indiana, and Boys & Girls Club of Cedar Lake made adjustments to their designs and planned how they would go about stacking thousands of cans of fruit and vegetables. More students were scheduled to visit CIVS on Friday.
The competition has the theme “Superheroes”; the Boy Scouts chose an Avengers theme, the YWCA a Transformers theme, and the Boys and Girls Club a Wonder Woman theme.
As the Boy Scouts got an up-close, life-sized view of their project, the Calumet Council’s STEM coordinator Chris Przewoznik called it “an awesome opportunity.”
“This is our first year to have someone in charge of STEM,” or science, technology, engineering and math, she said. In addition to Canstruction, Scouts have also been to the Challenger Learning Center and have done several other projects.
“STEM is important to our parents as well,” she said.
Scout Charlie Gray said the group agreed on the Avengers symbol as something feasible for the team of 12 boys and one girl.
“It was pretty cool,” the Lansing resident said after the team saw its design on the big screen. “It’s pretty fun so far.”
John Moreland, CIVS senior research scientist, cautioned the team to make sure they are careful with the base of the project. “If you get it wrong at the beginning it’ll be wrong all the way to the top,” he said.
A total of nine teams, made up of 130 students, are participating.
The teams will spend July 25 building their designs at Southlake Mall in Hobart. They’re allowed to use cardboard, packing tape, fishing line and other items to help secure the structures.
Then, from July 26 to Aug. 2, the public will be invited to view the finished projects and vote on their favorites. At the event’s conclusion, the food will be donated to the Food Bank of Northwest Indiana for distribution to local food pantries.
That was a big draw for the YWCA team.
“Our camp this year is about food, nutrition and health,” said summer camp group leader Yolana Nichols. And, “we were looking for a way for the kids to give back to the community.”
Team members Bryson Davis, Mya Johnson and Deyauni Harris, all of Gary, said they were all interested in helping the community.
They chose to create Transformers logos in light of the popularity of the current movie franchise, Bryson said.
Deyauni has been spending a lot of time working out the math behind the project. “I had to figure out how many cans we need and how many we need in each layer,” she said.
Angie Williams, of Lake Area United Way, said the project, which kicked off two weeks ago, is going well.
“We’re really amazed by the collaborative effort,” she said, regarding the young participants.
Visclosky staff member Celina Weatherwax said Thursday that the congressman looked at the contest as a good opportunity to work with the United Way and “to bring new opportunities to the students of Northwest Indiana.”
CIVS director Chenn Qian Zhou said the center was glad to help.
“I’m so excited to be part of this event,” she said.