Students Learn about Hunger in 3-D Designs

Taken from Post-Tribune, Written by Michael Gonzalez. Published July 19, 2014. [Opens in New Window]

HAMMOND — With a remote control in hand, Jack Moreland made the seven-foot, three-dimensional structure of food cans and boxes twirl and drop, expand and contract, even taking a viewer through the structure.

“We can see what it will look like up close,” said Moreland, wearing specially equipped 3-D glasses. “We may as well have a little fun with it.”

Moreland, the senior research scientist with Purdue Calumet’s Center for Innovation through Visualization and Simulation, or CIVS, helped guide teams of middle-schoolers through their superhero designs for Canstruction, a national competition getting young people to design structures using cans, boxes and other food stuff.

The students learn to work together to build a structure out of cans and boxes while getting a sense for how hunger affects the area, said Angie Williams, with the Lake Area United Way. The CIVS day puts their designs front and center, she said.

“This is the first time these kids get to see their plans come to life,” she said. “And, we’re the only ones to incorporate this CIVS 3-D technology into the process, so they’re really well positioned for the competition.”

CIVS is a high-tech theater used by corporations, schools and other groups to see what various product or system designs look like up close. The images are clear, colorful and tend to make viewers reach out to touch or grab details, much like watching a 3-D movie in a theater.

Teams of students from throughout Northwest Indiana poured into CIVS to see their designs in all of their three-dimensional glory. The next step for Canstruction is a day-long competition Friday at the Southlake Mall, when the students will put their plans into action.

The CIVS technology helped the Griffith YMCA, part of the Crossroads YMCA, tweak its design for a seven-foot wall of cans and boxes with “We Can Unite” bordering the bottom in blue and a large white center, all of construction paper, in the middle.

In the Griffith YMCA’s design, canned potatoes, covered in white paper, mixed with blue canned pears and red tomato sauces were contained within edges of blue macaroni and cheese boxes.

“I thought it was really cool we could see what it’s going to like in other people’s eyes,” said Molly Mills, 13, of Griffith. “Now, we have the letters popping out.”

“You don’t get to see this every day, and this is the only time we can see it like this,” said Vinnie Conti, 12, also of Griffith. “When we saw it in 3-D, we decided to curve the tomato cans in front and cover the sides and top with mac ‘n cheese boxes.”

The students learn about working together in design and feeding the hungry with Canstruction, but they learn something more by working with the CIVS, said Dr. Chenn Qian Zhou, the center’s director.

“The kids are our future, and the pipeline to higher education is very important,” she said. “At this middle-school age, it is critical to expose the to different things. That’ll really kind of inspire them.”