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HANDLING MATERIAL ISSUES : PUPILS ENGINEER FEATS OF WONDER IN BUILDING CONTEST.

Byline: Alicia Doyle Daily News Staff Writer

What do you get when you put a bunch of sixth-graders in a room filled with tin foil, rocks, string and Legos?

Pure imagination.

It's what 46 pupils sparked up Friday at Santa Rosa School during a construction contest that tested their skill, speed and originality.

``I'm not really sure what I'm gonna make,'' said a worried Monica Su, 12. But after fiddling with a few shapes, the youngster proudly showed off a miniature demolition helicopter, complete with a rock wrecking ball.

``I'm happy,'' said the youngster, later confident with her design. ``It wasn't that hard.''

Eleven-year-old Jake Willburn was impressed by how quickly he whipped up a futuristic police car, with lights made of foil and seat belts made of string.

``I didn't think about what I was going to do - I walked in and improvised,'' said Jake, explaining his strategy. ``I just started building it, and it came out this shape.''

Sponsored by the National Association of Women in Construction, Friday's Block Kids contest was a way to introduce youngsters to all facets of the construction industry, said Tracey McAuliffe, contest chair and NAWIC member. The contest is open to elementary school children in grades one through six.

By exposing children to the thrills of building, they discover the valuable contributions they could make to society as adults if they were building their project for real, McAuliffe said.

``It gives them a hands-on way to think about the many future careers in the construction industry,'' McAuliffe said.

``Plus, it's fun.''

Children have participated in Block Kids since 1972. About 7,000 youngsters nationwide competed in this year's event. Santa Rosa is the only school in Ventura County that participated out of 15 regional elementary schools, McAuliffe said.

Given one hour to build, each pupil had to work with 100 Legos, a one-foot piece of string, a two-inch diameter rock, a 12-by-18-inch piece of tin foil and 8-by-7-inch piece of cardboard.

NAWIC judges questioned each about his or creation and its purpose. Projects were scored on overall design, concept and construction.

``We're trying to unlock their enthusiasm, originality and creativity,'' said Judy Kay Culton, NAWIC past president and one of Friday's judges. ``We want them to know construction is a real option. It's a nontraditional field - not just for males or based on one's physical strength - but for architects, designers, painters.''

A savings bond will be awarded to first-, second- and third-place winners for $100, $75 and $50, respectively. Winners will be announced in late March.

A semifinalist from each region will be entered in the national competition in April. First-, second- and third-place national winners will receive a $1,000, $800 and $500 savings bond.

Founded in 1953 by 16 women working in the construction industry, NAWIC began as Women in Construction of Fort Worth, Texas.

Knowing that women represented only a small fraction of the construction industry, the founders organized NAWIC to create a support network for each other. Women in Construction of Fort Worth was so successful that it gained its national charter in 1955 and became the NAWIC.

The group has since grown to a membership of 6,000 with more than 200 chapters in the U.S. and Canada.

Friday's contest not only introduced kids to different areas of construction but also taught them the power of imagination, McAuliffe said.

``Your mind is not limited,'' she said. ``Whatever you think and believe is possible.''

CAPTION(S):

4 Photos

Photo: (1--Ran in Conejo and Simi--color) Santa Rosa School sixth-grader Michael Metcalf works on his ``solar-powered carwash.''

(2--Ran in Conejo and Simi--color) One pupil fashioned a house from items in Block Kids on Friday in Camarillo.

(3,4--Ran in Conejo and Simi) Above, Morgan Levoy helps Kevin Lee with his crane. At left, Monica Su, 12, constructs a toy helicopter Friday at Santa Rosa School in Camarillo. Sponsored by the National Association of Women in Construction, the Block Kids contest is a way to introduce youngsters to all facets of the construction industry. Given one hour to build, each pupil had to work with 100 Legos, a one-foot piece of string, a two-inch diameter rock, a 12-by-18-inch piece of tin foil and 8-by-7-inch piece of cardboard.

Joe Binoya/Special to the Daily News
COPYRIGHT 1997 Daily News
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1997, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Feb 15, 1997
Words:714
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