Family-friendly competition pits KEVA-builders against one another
The race was on Sunday at SciWorks to build the tallest and steadiest tower with KEVA planks.
The friendly competition brought many local families to the science museum. The small, thin, uniform wooden KEVA planks are designed to be stacked upon one another to build simple or elaborate structures. The planks don’t use glue or anything else to keep themselves together, only gravity. Sciworks has a popular KEVA exhibit on view.
Teams had eight minutes to build their tallest towers, which were then measured by SciWork’s Ally
McCauley. It was tense competition as teams worked quickly but carefully with the knowledge that one misplaced plank could send an unstable tower tumbling down.
McCauley first used a yardstick and later a tape measure to gauge the height of the finished products that were left standing after the building period ended.
The Gunckel family created a 55-inch tower, one of the tallest of the competition.
“We came out specifically for the block building,” said Craig Gunckel, who was joined by wife Michelle and kids Hayden, Payne and Logan. “We come out to Sciworks quite often, and we thought we’d come out today and play with the blocks.”
The family came with a plan. Gunckel said they decided to construct a strong base and keep the tower straight as they added pieces. The strategy worked brilliantly at first. The family was the leader in the first round of the competition, but those in the second round improved on the building techniques used by the first teams.
Cathy McDowell, her daughter Lindsay Beckerleg, and five other family members earned second-place in the competition for their 57.75 inch tower.
McDowell called the competition “nail biting.” She and her family painstakingly added planks in the final minutes and debated whether more could be added without the structure toppling over.
“Slow and steady gets second place,” said McDowell with a laugh.
Lindsay, who was celebrating her ninth birthday, said she was happy to take home the second place prize, a 50-piece KEVA set. Lindsay, a regular SciWorks visitor, said it was an “exciting and tricky” competition.
“I was worried it was going to fall and I’d have to start over, but it didn’t,” she said.
Josh Alfing and his four year-old son Jamie won the competition. The pair came to the museum as part of a father-son church outing.
Alfing said he and Jamie simply stacked the planks triangularly on top of one another to form their tower, forgoing the elaborate bases that some teams used. As the tower grew beyond little Jamie’s height, he handed planks to his father to place. When it grew beyond Alfing’s height, he stood on top of the wooden box that held the KEVA planks to keep building. When time was up, the duo had constructed a 72.25-inch tower. They won a 200 piece KEVA set, valued at $58.50.
Alfing said he and Jamie “dabbled” in KEVA planks at another museum but this was their “first big engineering feat.” Though Jamie had been to SciWorks several times, it was his first trip there with his dad, who hadn’t been to the science museum since he was child himself. Alfing said he was glad his son was involved and engaged in the contest, and Jamie said his favorite part of the competition was “winning a prize.”
“It was fun,” said Alfing. “I think my son had a really good time. As long as he had a good time, I was happy.”
The contest was held to promote SciWork’s KEVA exhibit and its new Sunday operating hours. The permanent KEVA exhibit opened last fall after a successful temporary exhibit was on view last summer. The exhibit includes work stations where visitors can use the museum’s 15,000 KEVA planks to create. There are plenty of photographs and completed KEVA structures around to provide examples and inspiration. One photo features the tallest KEVA tower ever built: a 51-foot 8-inch tower structure built with the assistance of a lift in the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C.
SciWorks will hold its next KEVA contest from Feb 23-April 10, when local residents will be invited to post pictures of their “coolest” KEVA structure on SciWorks’ Facebook page. Those truly deemed the coolest will win prizes.
For more information about SciWorks, visit www.sciworks.org.