CANstruction Offers Real-World Design Problem, Benefits Food Bank

For the sixth consecutive year, Dimond engineering students are participating in the CANstruction competition as the only student team.

CANstruction is a building competition where engineering teams design and construct a sculpture out of canned food.

Build day this year is March 25.

Sculptures are built and displayed at the University Center Mall.

After the competition, all of the food used in the structure is donated to the Food Bank of Alaska.

CANstruction is the Food Bank’s main source of food in the spring. Spring is a slow time for the food bank, as they run out of the supplies gathered during the holidays.

Sculptures can win various awards such as Best Meal for the structure that contains the best mix of useful food for those who need it, Judge’s Favorite, Most Cans, Best Use of Labels and People’s Choice for the sculpture that receives the most votes.

People can vote for their favorite structures by buying canned food and placing it in the bins next to the sculpture.

The food used for voting is also donated to the food bank.

Dimond frequently wins People’s Choice by having a canned food drive and then using donations as votes. So far, Dimond has won it four times.

Last year, Dimond’s team won Best Meal again. In other past years, they have also won Best Use of Labels.

This year the team is aiming for Most Cans and People’s Choice.

Dimond’s involvement started six years ago when Integrated Concepts and Research Corporation approached Dimond Engineering and said that they wanted to sponsor a team, but did not have the time to do it themselves. Lea Bouton, who teaches Principles of Engineering, the sophomore engineering course at Dimond, and coaches that class as a team, agreed to put together a team, and they tried it.

Bouton said ICRC did not sponsor them again, because it cost more than expected, but Enterprise Engineering, a major sponsor of CANstruction and now a school business partner, stepped up and offered to match any funds that Dimond raised. They have done so for five years now.

This year was uncertain because Enterprise was not sure that they could sponsor a Dimond team again, but the program was assisted by Dimond Sophomore Martina Dick. She managed to convince her employers, Independent Lift Truck of Alaska and All-Terrain Vehicles of America to each donate $1,000.

Then, Enterprise Engineering decided they would sponsor the team with the same fundraising match agreement, which gave Dimond $4000 to work with— enough for a fully funded structure.

In years past, Dimond students have had to fundraise at least $1,500 for a budget of about $3,000.

Structures usually cost about $3-$5 thousand, at about $1 per can. The cans are bought through Carrs Safeway, who sells them to teams at cost, meaning they do not make a profit.

This year’s theme is “Hidden Treasures.” The Dimond team’s plan is called “Dimond in the Rough,” pictured above.

Dick said, “I just think that it’s a really good opportunity for kids to get involved with the community and with all the other engineering corporations, it’s a good start to networking.”

Bouton said, “I think it’s the biggest real-world design problem that our students do because it’s actual money involved and deadlines that can’t be moved just because they’re more convenient. I think it also teaches a lot in communication because two periods do it and both periods are responsible, and I think it teaches a lot of teamwork because only five students can work on it at a time during the actual build.”