Archive for Wednesday, May 18, 2005

A budding builder

Tonganoxie 10-year-old wins national Lego competition

May 18, 2005

A Tonganoxie boy may have what it takes to be a builder.

Riley Davis, 10, recently won the national Block-Kids Design competition, sponsored by National Association of Women in construction.

Here's how the contest works.

Children are given 100 Lego building blocks, a sheet of aluminum foil, a piece of string and a piece of colored paper.

Then they're told to build something. While a lot of children might go for the obvious -- a skyscraper or a house -- Riley went for the inventive.

He came up with a solar and wind power plant to produce electricity for a residential neighborhood.

Riley, a home-schooled student, had participated in the competition in previous years, so he already knew what to expect. And during a trip to California he had been fascinated with wind turbines.

So that was his start. With the Legos, he constructed the wind turbines. Then he wrapped more Legos in aluminum foil to represent solar panels.

And Riley used the string as a power cord that brings the energy from the solar panels and wind turbines to the generator. Riley even color-coded his power plant so that the main part of the facility is yellow to symbolize electricity and lights. In addition, he connected three energy efficient homes to the power plant. By the time Riley finished his project, even he was impressed.

"I thought it was pretty cool," said Riley, who is the son of John Ricker and Delight Davis.

Riley won the area competition. Then, his design was sent to regional and national, where he won again.

His prizes include a tool box filled with tools, savings bonds for $100 and $500 and three trophies.

Kristy Vermeesch, who lives in Tonganoxie, is a member of NAWIC. Several years back she coordinated the Block-Kids project.

So she was interested in learning about this year's winner.

"I was very excited that someone local won," Vermeesch said.

And she noted, it wasn't surprising that a home-schooled child won.

"Home-school kids probably make up at least a third of the competition," Vermeesch said.

And Riley's mother said it could be her child's home-schooling helped him obtain the wins.

"I think home-schooling really encourages kids to be able to pursue their own talents and the things they want to do," Delight said.

"Home-schoolers in general kind of look at the world as their classroom. Things like building with Legos might seem like play to some people, but there are a lot of matters involved in geometry and proportion, and just the creativity of having to put it all together. I think he's learning with everything he does."

And, the prizes themselves -- the savings bonds -- will lead to more learning.

"We're going to go downtown and talk to our banker because we thought that might be a nice educational lesson about money," Delight said.

And, while Riley's happy about the win, he's taking it in stride.

"I didn't know it was this big of a deal," Riley said. "I just thought I had won a trophy and stuff."

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