Backyard construction contest aims to keep stuck-at-home kids busy

BRISTOL, Vt. (WCAX) A backyard building contest is keeping students busy while they're stuck at home during the pandemic.

It's a construction challenge to get kids moving away from the screen and using their hands outside.

"I said, 'Man, we got to do something for the kids that have just been told they're not going back to school,'" said Max Murray the co-owner of Goliath Tech Vermont.

As self-proclaimed hands-on learners, the company's co-owners, Murray and Josh Masterson, wanted to help students break up the monotony of sitting in front of a computer screen while generating interest in the trades.

"If we can get them outside involved in construction or what we're doing for screw piles or the excavation world or anything involving outdoor activities is, I think, a big support," said Masterson.

The contest is divided into three categories: Design It, Build It -- for which sponsors will provide materials and construct students' structures; Design It, Plan It -- for which winners will receive a cash prize in lieu of a physical building; and Design It, Work It -- for which juniors and seniors will compete for a paid summer internship.

The contractors have already received an outpouring of support from 15 community partners throughout Vermont who've donated cash and labor to the cause.

"We're really gaining some traction to be able to provide a really tangible contest for these kids," said Murray.

Murray and Masterson are collaborating with Mt. Abraham Unified School District to incorporate school credit into the competition.

"This to me, as somebody who's always interested in finding ways to personalize education seemed like a natural fit," said Gabriel Hamilton, the proficiency-based learning coordinator at Mt. Abraham Unified School District.

Hamilton says as teachers try to build engaging lessons during "Stay Home, Stay Safe," the contest aligns perfectly with personalized learning plans, ticking off problem-solving, critical thinking, transferable skills and potentially global citizenship.

"Depending on what grade level they're at, they're able to adapt the project to fit the learning targets that they're working toward," said Hamilton.

No matter what, the teams say the built-in incentives will beat the boredom and build their brains.

"It's something to give kids a goal to be better," said Masterson.

The contest will run for between two to three weeks and starts the week of April 29. Though only one school district is involved right now, Murray and Masterson say they hope this story will get more on board. If you'd like to participate, contact Goliath Tech directly.