A Can-Do Attitude

Norwich -- The Olympics logo, with the five linked circles, is easy enough to recreate on paper.

But try building it as a sculpture made entirely of cans, and you may run into some of the same problems a group of eighth-graders at Teachers' Memorial School did Thursday afternoon.

The students were attaching dozens of unopened cans of corn, baked beans and other canned edibles to a metal ring using rubber bands. Lying flat on the ground, the cans formed a nice circle. But once lifted to stand vertically, the cans wiggled and broke formation, forcing students to get creative about how to secure the cans in place.

The students are participating in the state portion of the North-American Canstruction competition. Canstruction requires teams to build large sculptures out of unopened cans of food that are later donated to the hungry.

The Connecticut competition takes place on April 5, during which teams will have six hours to build their sculpture.

“Figure out a way to make it stand on its own,” said eighth-grade math teacher Chris Hargus, who is helping the students with the project. “Use your knowledge.”

This is the second year Teachers' Memorial has participated in the competition, Hargus said. Last year's group of eighth-graders built an iCan, or an iPod made out of cans.

This year, students are meeting twice a week after school to practice building the sculpture. Peggy Sullivan, an architect with Essex-based George Penniman Architects LLC, comes in once a week and uses architectural software to help students visualize what a three-dimensional sculpture of the logo might look like.

A Learn and Serve America grant is helping pay for some of the materials students are using for the sculpture, Hargus said. Students also wrote to local businesses and received $275 in donations for supplies and are conducting a school wide can drive, which has brought in a variety of cans of food ranging from the standard (tomato sauce) to the more unusual.

Student David Michaud, who on Thursday worked on both the ring of cans and a base to stand the eventual logo on, said somebody brought in a can of pistachio nut paste that cost $8.90.

“I looked at the price tag,” he said.

Because the students will only have six hours to build their sculpture on competition day, they must figure out ahead of time exactly how they'll want to position the cans and what additional materials they will want to use.

“A lot of this is just trial by error,” Hargus said.
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