Addison Rutherford and Gabrielle Ramsey of Raymore built a mountain Saturday morning.
And a castle. And cottages. With paper, cardboard, glue and tape.
“We’re trying to just get structure going, with some bigger boxes to smaller boxes,” explained Gabrielle, 13. “Then we’re going to fill around it with some tissue paper and stuff and make it look a little more natural. Maybe build some trees and bushes around that.”
Addison, 12, enthusiastically pitched in.
“I have no clue why we decided to build this,” she giggled.
The two friends were among the hundreds of kids and parents taking part in Saturday’s Time Warner Cable City Imagineerium, an event sponsored by several local companies and the nonprofit Learn Science and Math Club of Kansas City. The activities were in Pierson Auditorium on the campus of the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
The auditorium’s floor was laid out in a citylike grid. Participants obtained building permits, then scooped up egg cartons, tubes, ribbon and pipe cleaners to assemble soaring skyscrapers or suspension bridges in the makeshift metropolis.
Prizes were awarded. A volunteer handed out suckers and stickers whenever energy seemed to slump.
Nick Peterson, 11, of Kansas City, built a flying helipad out of packing foam and tape.
“It can travel to different places, and on top it has solar panels, so it never runs out of energy,” he said.
The day’s low-tech fun had a high-tech purpose, said Rebecca Kidwell, president of the Learn Science and Math Club.
“Kids can come in … and have fun and play and do technical things,” she said, “and hopefully feel so confident and inspired that they’re brave enough to try something more intensive, like a camp or a class or a robotics team.”
Educators across the nation continue to focus on STEM courses: science, technology, engineering and math. The United States remains a world leader in postsecondary technology and engineering teaching, studies show, but STEM learning in some elementary and middle schools continues to slip.
In 2012, the U.S. ranked 27th out of 34 countries in math skills and 20th in science, according to one study.
The City Imagineerium may help boost interest in STEM learning, Kidwell said.
“We don’t expect every single kid to grow up to be an engineer,” she said. “But we think every single person will be typing on a laptop, using a pad, fixing the lawn mower. They need technical skills.”
Kidwell and more than 100 volunteers wandered across the auditorium floor Saturday, offering a helping hand when asked and encouraging young architects and builders to stretch their imaginations.
Moms, dads and relatives watched closely — and itched to join in.
“I love art and doing stuff like this,” said Candace Duncan, 35, of Kansas City. “I want to do it myself.”
Gabrielle Ramsey’s mother, Lisa, helped gather building materials for her daughter’s mountain.
“It’s pretty amazing,” she said. “You never know what they’re going to come up with.”
Meanwhile, across the hall, Nick Peterson’s cellophane helipad neared takeoff.
Where did he come up with this idea?
The young builder said, “My mind.”