Shin Cousens, a geometry student at the Wiesbaden Middle School, researches designs in class during the initiation phase of the tin can construction project on March 1, 2010, guided by Kelley Grant (not pictured), a volunteer from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Europe District.

WIESBADEN, Germany - A small middle school geometry class with big minds is taking on a big challenge.

Four eighth-grade geometry students at the Wiesbaden Middle School accepted the challenge to plan, design and construct a sculpture completely from cans as part of a tin can construction project similar to the Society of Design Administration's Canstruction®.

"From the first time I heard about this program, I knew it was a great idea," said David Bruce, a geometry teacher at the Wiesbaden Middle School. "You can't pay for this kind of experience. It's not about the building of the structure - it's about the process. It's the real deal, it's real world."

The challenge kicked off March 1 when students officially entered into phase one, the initiation phase. With the guidance from Kelley Grant, a volunteer from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Europe District, students learned about the five phrases of project management, which they will be using to bring their project to fruition.

Using the Corps' Project Management Business Process brochure, Grant outlined each of the stages of a real-world project, and how these same principal steps will guide their tin can construction project from concept to reality.

"This project will require more than just math and science skills," said Bruce. "The students will have to use wit and ingenuity in each step of the process. From deciding who the best person for each job is to whether or not the design is feasible, students will really have to think and work well together to complete this project."

Grant and other volunteers from the Europe District will guide the students throughout each of the five stages of the tin can construction- initiation, planning, design, execution and close out.

"Working in a team, students will experience real life issues," said Grant. "They will really get to know each other. They will discover their strengths and weaknesses, and hopefully they will learn to overcome team conflicts and learn to solve problems."

During the planning stage, students were asked to evaluate the potential problems and look for solutions, think about possible size and design of the sculpture, consider the number of cans needed, make a project schedule, and discuss team dynamics. And so far, the students have taken a vested interest in their project.

"I'm really looking forward to this project," said Wesley Moncrief, one of the students involved in the competition. "It gives us chance to apply the knowledge we have now and gives us experience for the future."

"With a can budget or can limitation and a completion date requirement, the tin can construction project is as close to a real construction project as these students can get," said Grant.

Cans of various heights, colors and sizes are being donated by the Wiesbaden Commissary. After the completion of the tin can project, the cans will be returned to the commissary, unlike Canstruction® where the cans of food are donated to local food banks.

"Even though the food will not go to a food bank, the experience gained by the students will be immeasurable," said Katie Ergenekon, the tin can construction project manager from the district. "If this year's project goes well, maybe next year students will have an opportunity to participate in the actual Canstruction® competition."

Page last updated Wed March 3rd, 2010 at 09:15