First-graders test engineering skills

Last Thursday, Oct. 8, the cafeteria at Paul Banks Elementary School was crowded with a dog sled, a claw machine, several ball games and even more castles – and dozens of ecstatic 6-year-old engineers. First- and second-graders were participating in a nationwide Cardboard Challenge, which invited students to build structures out of recycled materials. The challenge is based on a viral YouTube video called “Cain’s Arcade,” which showcases an elementary schooler proudly displaying an entire working games arcade made of cardboard.

All last week, students at Paul Banks brought in recycled materials from home: Pringles cans, cardboard boxes, tape and paper towel rolls, old string. They spent a day brainstorming and making blueprints for their creations. 

“I had two parents tell me their kids haven’t been able to sleep all week, they’ve been so excited,” said first-grade teacher Wendy Todd.

Those sleepless nights paid off on the 8th, when Coast Guard volunteers with X-Acto knife experience helped the students bring their ideas to life.

First-grader Julian Bissette explained how a ball moved through his egg-carton and Kool Aid wrapper creation, “Cube Race.” Alivia Craddock and Naveah Lusy were busy adding decorations to their castle inspired by last year’s hit Disney movie, “Frozen.”

Addy Pederson, also in first grade, showed off special features of the dogsled she made with her friend Britta Velsko.

“Under it there’s a lot of tape so it doesn’t make noise,” she said. “There’s a cat on it – the owner’s cat. I have a lot of stuffed animals and tomorrow I’m going to bring in my huskies.”

Annie Rosenthal can be reached at To see photos of the cardboard creations, go to