On Saturday morning, January 27, 2018, a group of women from the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) in Columbia, S.C., happily awakened early to greet the sweet, smiling and curious faces of local youngsters — kindergarteners through 6th graders.
“Each January, NAWIC members in South Carolina and North Carolina join their counterparts across the country by participating in the Block Kids Building Program, a fun and rewarding effort designed to introduce young students to the AEC industry,” said longtime NAWIC member Susan Clary, director of marketing for Columbia-based Mashburn Construction, and current Membership Chair and President-Elect of NAWIC-Columbia (Chapter #113). “Block Kids gives participants an opportunity to be the architect, engineer and the contractor as they design their own buildings and build them one block at a time. A handful of volunteer judges assess the projects and select the winners in each grade and an overall winner.”
Clary noted that Block Kids contestants in the past have interjected real-world situations into their designs. “Past projects have included safe rooms for students in the event of an active shooter, water purification systems and state of the art residences that can help reduce our carbon footprint on the environment,” she said. “These brilliant young minds are the future of our AEC industry and it is amazing to see what they dream up during the short time period they are given during the Block Kids competition.”
2018 NAWIC-Columbia Block Kids Building Program Winners:
Joshua Shoulders — 3rd grade winner and overall winner
Eli Summerlin — 1st grade winner
Samuel Webster — K winner
Jacob Early — 2nd grade winner
Julius Carter — 6th grade winner
Owen Reynolds — 5th grade winner
Samuel Anderson — 4th grade winner
NAWIC-Columbia’s overall winner, Joshua Shoulders, envisioned and designed a zipline. “His two building structures represent a residence and an office building. The concept is that the resident can commute to work via the zip line and avoid any traffic or pedestrian issues on the ground. It is also a ‘Green Initiative’ in that it offsets greenhouse gases emitted by human activities that are caused by simply driving a car,” said Clary.
Haley Ray, Owner and President of Lugoff, S.C.-based Haley Ray Pavement Marking, participated as the beloved mascot, Connie-struction. The lively mascot greeted participants as they entered the venue — Virginia Wingard Methodist Church’s social hall. The contestants were then ushered into the hall with their hardhats and building materials, and with their imaginations in full gear.
Regional Involvement – Upstate S.C. and Beyond
Debbie Edwards, CIT, of Premier Lighting and Control in Columbia, is the Block Kids Chairperson for NAWIC’s South Atlantic Region. She elaborated on how the competition works. “Third-grader Joshua Shoulders was NAWIC-Columbia’s grade winner and overall Block Kids winner, so he will advance to our South Atlantic regional competition this spring. His project will be competing against 11 other chapter winners,” she explained. “Whoever wins the South Atlantic competition will be entered into NAWIC’s National Block Kids Building Program competition.”
NAWIC-Greenville (S.C.) held its Block Kids Building Program competition after school on Thursday, January 25. The event had 23 participants and all three of the winners were girls. In the past, judges have been recruited from chapter members and/or local businesses. This year’s event was judged by students in the Construction Science and Management (CSM) program at Clemson University. The Clemson students were a big hit with the kids.
Janet O’Rear, customer service for The Copy Spot, Inc. and secretary for NAWIC-Greenville, pointed out that fourth-grader Annika Ager won this year’s competition after placing second last year. “Annika built a wrecking ball tearing down a building. We are so glad that she could come back and compete again this year,” said O’Rear. In second place was third-grader Izzy Vandiver, who built a garage. Jordyn Cato took third place for building a playground.
“The Block Kids event is a great learning experience. It gets the kids thinking about the construction industry at an early age. Our members always enjoy this annual event. We love seeing the kids use their imaginations in building their projects. It is very rewarding for us,” added O’Rear.
In addition to the Columbia and Greenville chapters in South Carolina, NAWIC’s South Atlantic Region includes seven chapters in North Carolina (Asheville, Charlotte, Greensboro, Raleigh, Durham, Fayetteville and Greenville) and three chapters in Virginia (Richmond, Roanoke and Chesapeake).
About the Block Kids Building Program — The Block Kids Building Program is a national building competition that is sponsored on the local level by NAWIC chapters and other organizations. The award-winning program introduces children to the construction industry in an effort to create awareness and promote careers in the industry.
Competition Structure and Winners:
- Local winners advance to Regional Competitions
- One semi-finalist from each region is entered in the National Program competitions
- National prizes are awarded to the top three projects.
NAWIC is an organization for women in the construction industry, with educational programs for members and scholarships for students in construction-related fields. Visit www.nawic.org for more information.