The students could hardly wait to register their handmade cardboard creations, imaginative projects that included robots, catapults, tanks and musical instruments.
Students of all grade levels packed the commons, cafeteria and gyms of Cherokee Trail High School in the early evening of Oct. 8, all eager to submit their entries for the 2014 Cardboard Challenge competition. For the second year in a row, hundreds of Cherry Creek School District students participated in a competition that encourages a marriage of creativity and skills rooted in engineering and math.
Inspired by the 2012 documentary film “Caine’s Arcade” directed by Nirvan Mullick, the Cardboard Challenge at CCSD encourages the best kind of innovation from students of all grade levels. It's the second year that the Cherry Creek Schools Foundation has funded and organized the event as part of their broader mission. That core goal focuses primarily on impacting all CCSD students, investing in innovation and building long-term relationships in the community.
The underlying rule of this year’s contest was simple: students had to use cardboard and other recycled materials in creating an original project. That was all. The rest was left to the creators’ very capable imaginations. The 680 projects submitted for this year’s event ranged from massive animal sculptures to working soda machines; elementary school students built cars and tanks; middle schoolers submitted functional violins and guitars; high school students built lighthouses and baseball stadiums – all made of cardboard. It’s no wonder Cherry Creek School District Superintendent Harry Bull and others praised the creative breadth of the items on display.
“I’m expecting to see a lot of different materials, colors, pop culture themes,” said judge and Arrow Electronics marketing coordinator Ryan Flesher before judging began. “I’ve already been surprised … The turnout is amazing.”
The impressive range of the projects made it difficult for the judges to select winners. The crew of officials making those decisions included mayors, executives and other high-profile community members. Decked in bright T-shirts, they carefully traveled from one project to another, looking for the most creative and innovative interpretations of the contest’s basic theme.
“The kids got a pretty wide open prompt,” said judge and former Cherry Creek School District Superintendent Mary Chesley before the official judging began. As she spoke, students filed past her carrying cardboard trucks, 3-D models of large cities and other impressive projects. “It’s awesome to see,” she added, explaining that an important part of the judging criteria would come down to students’ ability to explain the reasoning and method behind their projects.
The 750 students from more than 50 schools had no problem summing up the logic and method behind their creations. Kayla Sermini, a student from Liberty Middle School, patiently explained the process behind the creation of her cardboard violin. The instrument featured real violin strings, but the body and tuning pegs were cardboard, popsicle sticks and other unlikely materials. Before striking notes with her bow, Sermini explained to the judges that the notes would be hard to hear in the crowded and noisy environment of the Cherokee Trail gymnasium.
The soft tone of the violin didn’t get in the way of impressing the judges. Sermini picked up one of the prizes for the night, an honor that included a medal and a cardboard check made out for $200.
Arapahoe County Sheriff David Walcher was one of the dignitaries who walked away from Sermini’s presentation with an expression of wonder on his face.
“I’m so impressed,” Walcher said. “I wish I had that type of imagination.”