Two "highly motivated" teams from Father John Redmond hammered their competitors at the Second Annual Toronto Construction Challenge in Etobicoke this weekend, walking away from the day-long competition with three top-three finishes.
Organized by the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) and Destination ImagiNation, the Construction Challenge is an innovative career-education initiative designed to engage high school students with real-world, hands-on experiences in the construction industry, said Michele Davies, rally leader for the Toronto event.
"What the AEM is trying to do is address the workforce shortage that they're expecting as early as 2012," she said, quoting AEM numbers that estimate as many as a million vacant construction jobs in North America within the next two years, with no one qualified to fill them.
"The Construction Challenge program was created to help students identify the construction sector as a good place to work and develop a career - increasing awareness, getting the message out about what construction is all about, and really painting a picture (of the construction industry) that show it's about a lot more than just digging holes."
The day of competition, held on Saturday, Jan. 15 at Lakeshore Collegiate Institute, was divided into three separate exercises, designed to challenge the 25 participating teams from across southern Ontario to explore key elements of the highly diverse industry, such as new technologies, research, engineering, project management, product development, manufacturing, service support and career pathways.
The first challenge gave student teams six hours to design and build a roadway incorporating nine transportation infrastructure components (i.e bridges, under- and overpasses, etc.) allowing traffic to flow unobstructed.
The second challenge, which the students were given only 20 minutes to complete, was to design and build a water filtration system that could filter organic and inorganic contaminants. The challenge required the team to create a drawing representing the technical, architectural and engineering needs for their proposed water filtration system, as well as to construct a model filtration system that could filter three different size balls into their corresponding catch basins.
"They had just 18 minutes to build their filter and two minutes to do their final run and see how many balls they could get through," Davies explained. "And they had no idea what materials they'd be getting before walking into the challenge. It really tested their instantaneous creativity."
The third and final challenge required teams to prepare a 30-second proposal presentation for an infrastructure improvement in their local community. To do so, the students needed to demonstrate an understanding of the infrastructure issue, summarizing the proposal and the engineering recommendation for the infrastructure change.
Mary Lou Hurley, department head of special education at Father John Redmond and the school's staff supervisor at the Construction Challenge, said her students didn't take the challenge lightly. In fact, they took it upon themselves to log hours of research before going into the event, even making calls to the Ministry of Transportation to get information they thought might be pertinent to the challenge.
"They were very self-directed and they pulled it all off themselves, so I've got to give them credit for taking the initiative outside the classroom," she said of the two teams, which comprised of seven Grade 12 students each.
All their hard work paid off, too.
The team of Samantha Davies, Cory Yan, Kevin Saqui, Kasia Hurtado, Pierre Arquillano, Daniel Koh, and Paul Buning won first place in the second challenge and second place in the third challenge, while the team of Jarrett Zacharko, Joseph Hoang, Sabrina Nifo, Michael Mallozzi, Jessica Trigiani, David Whitton, Ricker Ridsdill-Miller followed close behind with a third place finish in the third challenge.