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April 8, 2013

Canny concepts key for creative challenge

By Denise Richardson
The Daily Star

---- — Six student teams mixed generosity and creativity to turn hundreds of food cans into recognizable constructions on display at Southside Mall in Oneonta. 

A robot and electronic gear were among items created Saturday during the local Canstruction Competition this past weekend.

Chuck D’Imperio, radio personality and columnist for The Daily Star, said the competition results showed an impressive historic range, from a creation representing the Roman Colosseum through circular groups of cans to a flat, rectangular structure portraying an Apple iPad.

“They’re amazing,’’ D’Imperio said. 

Canstruction, and its efforts to fight hunger, was founded in 1992 and has expanded into more than 200 cities worldwide, the organization’s website said. 

Locallly, the project started three years ago and is sponsored by the Center for Social Responsibility and Community at the State University College at Oneonta. 

The teams used the shapes and sizes of the cans, plus the shades and patterns of the labels, to build structures ranging from familiar to historic items. More than 4,000 cans of food were collected to create the six structures, which will be on display until Sunday, organizers said. On Monday, the canned goods will be donated to food pantries in Otsego County, organizers said. 

On Sunday, several participants, organizers and observers applauded the effort to collect canned foods, create recognizable structures and support a project that involved students and the community.

D’Imperio joined Jim Kevlin, editor and publisher of The Freeman’s Journal and Hometown Oneonta, and Sam Pollak, editor of The Daily Star, as judges of the Canstruction Competition. The awards by title were:

• Jurors Favorite to “Canisieum’’ by Otsego Northern Catskills Board of Cooperative Educational Services students from Grand Gorge. 

• Best Meal to students in the SUNY Oneonta Athletic Department, who built a water bottle.

• Best Use of Labels for “The Gift,’’ a box-like structure built by students from Hays and Ford residential halls at SUNY Oneonta.

• Structural Ingenuity for R2-D2, a robot, presented by the Robokronos Otsego 4-H FIRST Robotics Team. 

• People’s Choice to Milford Interact, a community group, that built an iPad.

• Honorable Mention to Grant Hall students from SUNY Oneonta for their can creation of an iPhone.

Teams raised money to purchase cans appropriate to the sculpture they planned to build. Participants had to use cans with original labels, and no glue or other materials could be used that would affect the cans during construction. 

Linda Zheng, a 16-year-old Oneonta High School student, said Robokronos team members decided it would be appropriate to build a robot. In about two hours, they put together the image of R2D2, a well-known robot from the “Star Wars’’ movies.

“Teamwork — everyone really pulled together,’’ Zheng, project captain, said. “It was really fun.’’ 

The first year, the event was at SUNY Oneonta and featured creations by three participating teams, Linda Drake, director of the Center for Social Responsibility and Community, said. Canstruction had five participants last year, when it was first presented at Southside Mall. 

“We’re looking to grow it next year,’’ Luisa Montanti, general mall manager, said Sunday before presenting the awards. 

Each structure had a sign with details about the project. 

“The gift of our structure demonstrates our ability to look outside ourselves and recognize that even the smallest of presents can go a long way,’’ said a sign The Gift, created by students from Hays and Ford halls at SUNY Oneonta.

Jill Eichler of the Hunger Coalition of Otsego County said the contributions of canned foods will be appreciated because supplies are needed after the holidays. The county has 22 food pantries that will be asked if they want to receive donations after the “de-canstruction’’ on Sunday, she said.