VALPARAISO | Budding young architects and builders played make-believe and competed for trophies and cash prizes Saturday at the Block Kids Competition.
The Valparaiso branch of the Porter County Public Library hosted the event, sponsored by the National Association of Women in Construction.
The annual competition, in which children construct designs out of interlocking plastic blocks, introduces kids to the construction industry, said Barbara Biernat, chapter president.
Eleven students from first through sixth grade assembled blocks into pyramids, bridges and even a race car garage. The organization’s members judged the creations and interviewed kids about their designs. Winners in each age category will advance to regional competitions.
“Thousands and thousands of kids participate in this,” said Biernat.
Ciara Bonner, 8, practiced her bridge design in second grade at South Haven Christian School under the watchful eye of “proud teacher” Shirley Luna.
“This is good for them to develop fine motor skills,” said Luna. “Today everything is videos ... this gives them an opportunity to be judged and speak outside their second grade experience.”
Ciara told the judge why she chose to construct a bridge.
“Because I like going across bridges and seeing blue sky,” she said.
Ciara’s dad, Matthew Bonner, said he is a boilermaker and Ciara’s grandfathers are union operators and laborers.
“It runs in the family for her to build,” said Bonner, of Valparaiso.
Biernat said the organization strives to develop the kids’ interest in construction as a future career.
“We need people with skills, training, and education,” said Biernat. “We go into the schools and get the word out very young.”
Benjamin Broude, 10, is a “a hands-on kid” and wants to be a carpenter like his dad, Darryl Broude.
“He helps me out a lot and even has his own tools,” said Broude, of Portage. “He has more tools than some guys I know.”
Benjamin said his plan is to use his carpentry skills to make toys for less fortunate kids “about two years” after he gets his driver’s license.
“I’m thinking of going on tour and giving poor kids toys,” said Ben Broude. “I like toys and I like to help others. I can make toys out of wood and give them to kids.”
Crystal Richmond, Ciara’s mom, was grateful for the chance for her daughter to be in the competition.
“It’s a good learning experience,” said Richmond. “It broadens their ideas of the world.”