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Johnson STEAM Academy fifth-graders win state home design challenge

Johnson STEAM Academy fifth-graders win state home design challenge

Connor Fitzgerald and Dominic Patrick won first place for their innovative project for Build Iowa’s Future Design Challenge, incorporating sustainability with solar panels and a greenhouse.

Johnson STEAM Academy fifth-graders Connor Fitzgerald, left, and Dominic Patrick won first place for their innovative project for Build Iowa’s Future Design Challenge. (Photo provided by Johnson STEAM Academy)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Johnson STEAM Academy fifth-graders Connor Fitzgerald and Dominic Patrick won first place in a statewide competition for their innovative project for Build Iowa’s Future Design Challenge.

Build Iowa’s Future Design Challenge is an opportunity for K-12 students to create innovative projects, inspire a potential career and compete for up to $1,000 awards for their schools.

Elementary and middle school students participated in the Iowa Home Design Challenge by constructing a model home using toy plastic construction bricks, wood blocks or other materials, and making the case for why it would be a great place to live.

High school students participated in the Iowa Dream and Design Challenge, which involved conceptualizing and designing a project that could improve their community. Nearly 300 students across the state were involved in the 95 submissions turned in by the April 1 deadline.

“I am so impressed with the designs each team submitted and how they cultivated teamwork, creativity, problem solving and critical thinking skills in the process,” said Iowa Department of Education Director Ann Lebo in a news release. “Opportunities like the Build Iowa’s Future Design Challenge help students see the connection between the classroom and the workplace, preparing them for their future at every step of their educational journey.”

In an essay, Connor and Dominic explain that the home they designed is “high quality” because it is solar powered and can withstand tornadoes and “somewhat of a hurricane.”

A greenhouse means residents in the home can grow their own produce and “stay in it for a whole year without going to the grocery store,” the students wrote in their essay.

Sarah Jones, Johnson STEAM Academy magnet coordinator, said the Build Iowa’s Future Design Challenge was an “exciting project” to offer to teachers and their students. Ten teams of students spent every Friday for about eight weeks working on their projects.

“Here at Johnson with our (science, technology, engineering, art and math) focus, students are finding problems that exist in the world and creating solutions,“ Jones said.

Magnet schools provide students with more hands-on experiences than the traditional school model.

It’s clear living through a derecho — hurricane force winds that destroyed much of Cedar Rapids’ tree canopy and many homes on Aug. 10, 2020 — influenced the students’ designs, Jones said.

“There was an emphasis on sustainability and our awareness of how our climate is changing and how our homes are going to need to change,” Jones said. “The kids were seeking to come up with some solutions.”

The $1,000 award to the school will go toward future work-based activities, Jones said.

“Growing and integrating work-based learning into our schools inspires students to discover future careers and gain valuable knowledge and skills that will greatly benefit them in those careers, while developing strategic solutions to address real-world problems,” Gov. Kim Reynolds said in a news release. “The Build Iowa’s Future Design Challenge offers these students a great hands-on, real-world opportunity to learn about the many rewarding careers in the construction industry.”

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