Alexius Cushinberry sat sprawled Saturday on the floor of Crown Center, bending Girl Scout cookie boxes into 3-D triangles.
It sure didn’t look like it at first, but the high schooler from Topeka was creating a roller coaster. A winding, dipping roller coaster several feet long.
And, boy, was she patient. Crafting one long triangular tube at a time and linking it with another. Others worked quickly around her, cautioning one another not to knock anything over.
Alexius and her team of Girl Scouts from Topeka and Lawrence were making an adventure land of sorts with just some empty Girl Scout cookie boxes — well, hundreds — and tape.
“You have one hour left,” came the warning from an official-looking organizer in a “Cookie Construction” T-shirt. Because at 2 p.m., the judging would start.
Mariah Scott, an architect and mentor for Alexius’ team, looked up: “That’s good to know. No pressure.”
The pressure was everywhere inside the Crown Center atrium as seven teams of Girl Scouts rushed to finish the structures they’d been planning for half a year.
Each team could use up to 1,000 empty boxes of five kinds of cookies. There was everything from a hot-air balloon and a tree house to an outdoor landscape of all four seasons and a space camp of planets.
The idea behind Cookie Construction, which is in its second year, is to bring out the imagination in these Girl Scouts while teaching them about teamwork.
“They have to figure out how boxes work,” said Gina Garvin, spokeswoman for the Girl Scouts of Northeast Kansas and Northwest Missouri. “They have to figure out how they come together. … The magic happens when they’re paired with mentors.”
Since September, the Girl Scouts from around the Kansas City area have been working with female architects and designers at several businesses to come up with ideas they could bring to life.
Al Lampier, a designer with HOK Architecture, said the girls she worked with on the hot-air balloon were well versed in 3-D, half of them quite familiar with the building game Minecraft.
“They’re all super into teamwork,” said Lampier. “The questions we get are, ‘How can we help? What should we be doing?’ ”
Amanda Munsell, an eighth-grader from Lee’s Summit and a member of the High Flyers team that worked with Lampier, said every Girl Scout on the team brought a specific skill.
“Everybody on the team has to be able to move with the flow,” Amanda said. “I learned that a great leader not only tells people what they should do, but steps back and listens.”
All those skills, the team building and imagination and problem solving, are keys to Cookie Construction. But so is ripping apart the false idea that only men go into the fields of architecture, engineering and design.
“We’re trying to get more young women interested,” Lampier said. “And see it’s a career path for them.”
So, how about Alexius, who did all that bending and linking to help create a roller coaster? Did she, with just 45 minutes left to complete that roller coaster, see the possibility?
“Yeah,” she smiled. “Maybe.”