Merlene Davis: Sponsors of kids building competition need Legos, T-shirts, construction hats

Herald-Leader columnistMarch 17, 2014 

Anthony Lewis, center left, a construction management student at Eastern Kentucky University, volunteered to judge the Block Kids Building Competition in February. Ralph Bright, 9, center right, a student at Meadowthorpe, explained his creation to Lewis as part of the judging process. Bright won first place.

  • Block Kids Building Competition

    The Bluegrass Chapter of the National Association of Women in Construction needs help to expand the 2015 Block Kids Building Competition to more elementary students in Fayette County.

    Contact: Diana Hagan at (859) 230-3150 or by email at lexingtonblockkids@gmail.com.

What would you build using 100 toy building blocks of various sizes, 12 inches of string, an 18-inch square of aluminum foil, an 18-inch square of poster board and a rock?

Ralph Bright, 9, a third-grade student in the Quest Program at Meadowthorpe Elementary School, built a "house with an aluminum foil covering that protected it from the environment," said Melissa C. Bright, his mother.

"The rock was the moon and the string kept the moon in orbit."

Well, of course. That makes perfect sense.

Bright was the overall winner in the Block Kids Building Competition in February, sponsored by the Bluegrass Chapter of the National Association of Women in Construction. Juliann Hyatt placed second and Rebecca Carlson was third. Thirty Meadowthorpe students participated.

Photos of Ralph's creation and judging notes were sent to a regional contest and, had he been successful there, to the national competition.

Melissa Bright was drawn to Block Kids because it gave her son an opportunity to use his imagination to build something and then discuss it with someone in construction, she said.

"He was excited that he had someone who wanted to talk about it and who understood," she said.

The contest was open to students at Meadowthorpe, but Bright and Diana Hagan, president of the Block Kids program for the local chapter of the association, want it to be a citywide event for elementary students.

"I am an enthusiastic parent," Bright said. "I have pledged funds toward growing this project to a citywide competition."

Hagan is hoping to reach more people like Bright.

"We are trying to get 100 to 150 or more students next year," she said.

That will require sponsorships for T-shirts, prizes, construction-themed goody bags, hard hats and Legos, as well as volunteer judges from the construction field, and a space big enough to hold all those students.

"During our event, many children hear for the first time about different areas of construction or ways they can be involved from office work to field workers, architects and planners, engineers, managers, suppliers and more," said Hagan, a project engineer with Messer Construction Co. "This is just one way we can open their minds to the endless possibilities of a career in construction."

Hagan joined the association when she was in college. The local chapter has 30 members and welcomes women in the construction industry to their monthly meetings on the third Thursday of the month at the Griffin Gate Marriott Resort and Spa. Visit Bgnawic.org for more information.

In addition to Block Kids, the group also hosts the Ms. Fix-it Fair, which teaches basic information about plumbing and electrical repair, how to work with tile, drywall repair, home weatherization, gardening and home decorating in 45-minute classes throughout a one-day event.

This year's fair will be in the summer, Hagan said, and there will be a new format. Details are still in the works. Keep checking Bgnawic.org for more information.

But back to the Block Kids. The program was created in Biloxi, Miss., by Erma Lamousin, a member of the Greater Mississippi Gulf Coast chapter of the association. In 1989, it went national.

The program is open to children in elementary school, which ends at fifth grade in Fayette County, but extends to sixth grade in other regions of the nation.

"Even if we don't get enough sponsorship next year for a Lexington-wide event," Hagan said, "we plan to switch elementary schools to give different schools the opportunity to participate."

I love this idea. I don't think I would be as traumatized by this competition as I was with my children's science fair projects.

There is nothing for parents to provide, no need to push for weeks for the child to complete the project, and no fear of failure by the child.

The children walk into the competition and allow their imaginations to take over.

This is an idea worth supporting.

Merlene Davis: (859) 231-3218. Email: mdavis1@herald-leader.com. Twitter: @reportmerle. Blog: merlenedavis.bloginky.com.

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