While most Long Island families are starting to stock up for the holidays, Malverne resident Nicole Mawhirter, 15, a sophomore at Sacred Heart Academy, has focused on serving the hungry in time for this season of feasting by becoming involved with Canstruction, a not-for-profit organization that hosts competitions for architects, engineers and even students to build structures out of canned goods and donate the provisions to local food banks.
As the captain of her build team with 30 of her science research classmates, Nicole designed and built a 7 foot tall by 5 foot high by 7 foot deep structure over two months — using 2,217 cans of food that will eventually be donated to the Harry Chapin Food Bank of Long Island Cares — winning first place in the student group category of this year’s competition on Oct. 24.
After four hours of building the final product the night before the competition, Nicole said that the structure took the shape of a rainbow streaking across the globe, promoting the project’s message: “World hunger ends at the end of the rainbow.”
“We’re encouraged to take on leadership roles at Sacred Heart, so I really wanted to help families, especially with the economy the way it is now and after Superstorm Sandy,” Nicole said of her project. “It was a really good opportunity for these girls to be aware of how we can help others in our own backyard and really enjoy the process in doing that.”
She said she had approached Assistant Principal Emanuella Sullivan about mounting the project over the summer, and received approval to start the two-month endeavor in August.
In the early stages of the project, Nicole’s team sketched a basic plan for the structure and relied on knowledge of math and physics — with the help of Nicole’s father and seasoned engineer, Bruce, vice president of the Jericho-based engineering firm Hirani Group, who cut the masonite and wire for the structure’s base — to determine its final dimensions and construct a stable product.