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Can structures help feed the hungry

What do you get when you combine design, engineering, construction, canned food and hunger relief? CANstruction! According to the organization’s website, Canstruction was founded in 1992 by the late Cheri Melillo and her colleagues from the Society for Design Administration (SDA) to provide a fun and philanthropic effort to unite the design, engineering and construction industries. The event first began when SDA encouraged chapters to hold Canstruction competitions in their local communities across the nation. Later, American Institute of Architects (AIA) and Feeding America food banks joined the effort and expansion of the event. Today, Canstruction events are held in over 150 cities worldwide donating nearly 30 million pounds of food to feed the hungry. The event has since opened to all individuals as long as there is at least one engineer and one architect on the team.

Indiana’s state fair showcases more than just agriculture, it showcases Canstruction. 2015 was named ‘Year of the Farmer’ to honor the men and women who provide us with numerous resources. Partnering with Schmidt Associates in their first Canstruction event, F.A. Wilhelm Construction wanted to honor these men and women by building a structure that was fun and interactive. Volunteers from Wilhelm and Schmidt spent nearly three months planning for build day.

IMG_4902With three years of experience under his belt, The Phan of Schmidt led the group of volunteers through the process of Canstruction. First, the group brainstormed ideas of what they could possibly build that would grab the attention of fair-goers of all ages. They needed something that was easily distinguishable, interactive and would honor farmers everywhere. Their final decision was to build a See and Say, a toy many kids grew up with that plays a specific call when the arrow lands on the picture of an animal. “It’s [the See and Say sculpture] a great way to honor farmers and reach out to the hundreds of kids who will visit the fair,” says Wilhelm’s Therman McKelvin.

With their decision made, the team then had to design the sculpture. In years past Phan said this proved to be a harder task than imagined. “You have to take many things into account like, the location you will be building and the cans you will use to make the sculpture.” Teams do not know ahead of time where they will be located in the warehouse on build day, meaning they could be on a slope leading to a drain or a flat surface. In a previous year, Schmidt decided not to finish their sculpture because they were situated on a slope and the final piece, that did not have an affect on the structure, could possibly cause it to tip over. Many times when teams go to purchase cans the labeling and shape of the can have changed slightly. This causes an unexpected challenge in the building process because the can will not stack on top of one another very well if they are not identical.

To prepare for the purchase of the cans Phan estimated the cost by going to the store and seeing the average price of the type of food they would need based on the color of label. After budgeting for the project both companies set out to fundraise for cans. Wilhelm raised money by holding a bake sale with donated goods to sell to employees and raised nearly $500. Schmidt took a different route and sold “jean days” to their employees or auctioned off donated tickets to different events. As a team, both companies reached out to vendors and suppliers and industry partners to collected donations.

The building process on August 7th ran smoothly as teams of five worked together to stack cans on top of one another and the rest unpacked cans and disposed of trash. After four hours of building, the structure was nearly complete. After a lunch break, new volunteers arrived and finished the final touches on the structure. The final structure stands 8 feet high and contains nearly 4,000 cans of tomatoes, vegetarian beans, baked beans and other canned goods. On the side of the structure visitors are able to see the works “Moo”, “Oink”, “Cluck” and “Quack” spelled out in yellow cans. The structure also includes an arrow that spins when a button is pressed that will land on an animal and play a sound.

Final-SMPSWilhelm and Schmidt would like to thank Lynch Harrison Brumleve, Spohn Associates, RTM Consultants, Reitano Design Group, ESL Spectrum, Old Point Tavern, DL Couch, PILE. RJE & Knoll, Interfaced, ITS and Mayer Fabrics for sponsoring the build. A special thanks goes to Cyberia LTD for making the structure interactive. Without them, it would not be possible.

Phan said “It would be amazing to win People’s Choice this year, but if we don’t, we really hope to win Most Cans.” In past years, Schmidt Associates has won “Most Cans” and are very proud of the title because they are donating the most food to help under privileged families who cannot afford to feed their families. Phan also said that even if the team does not win a title he is happy to help the cause and raise awareness about the event and hunger relief.

Visit the Indiana State Fair from August 8-13 and cast your vote! “People’s Choice” award will be announced on August 14. We hope to see you there!

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