Canstruction Students from Lake and Porter Counties Will Help Feed the Hungry

(Orig. Published in The Times of NWI June 26, 2015 3:00 pm  •  Rob Earnshaw)

VALPARAISO | A contest that inspires students in the learning of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and helps feed the hungry, kicked off Friday at Ivy Tech.

Canstruction Northwest Indiana is powered by Lake Area United Way and United Way of Porter County in collaboration with U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky. About 70 middle school students from Lake and Porter counties divide into teams and create superhero-themed structures made out of canned food items.

After the contest is held in July for the best structure, the canned food is donated to the Food Bank of Northwest Indiana and ultimately to local food pantries.

This year the Purdue Calumet Center for Innovation through Visualization and Simulation designed software so the teams can create three-dimensional images of their designs.

That process began Friday for students like Bryce Phillips, 12, of Gary. He also took part in the program last year when his team made out of canned goods the Autobot symbol from "Transformers."

"It's fun and it's going to give food to people who need it," he said.

Lisa Daugherty, president of Lake Area United Way, said the benefits of Canstruction include introducing kids to STEM curriculum, and learning about hunger.

"Ultimately the cans they're working with will be donated to the Food Bank so they're learning to give," she said.

Sharon Kish, president of the Porter County United Way, said Canstruction couldn't happen without the engagement of sponsors from the business community who want to invest in kids. She said kids are having fun while learning about science and math and tying all of it in to "real life in Northwest Indiana."

In a few weeks the students will work on their designs at Purdue Calumet. On July 24, at Southlake Mall, the teams will build their structures. They will be on display for a week and the public can vote on them.