Architectural Design: Dream House Edition

Where would you build your dream house, if you could pick anywhere in the world?

Henry decided his dream house would fit well on the shores of a lake in Iceland. The home has front facing windows and a deck that runs the length of the front overlooking the lake and the mountains beyond.

The location is certainly beautiful, but required unique design considerations. The roof, for instance, had to be practical for a snowy region. “One thing I took into account was the slope of the roof,” Henry said. ” I couldn’t just make a flat roof. It had to be sloped so the snow would just slide off.”

Cooper’s dream house is set in Copper Mountain, Colorado, “right on a hill – ski in, ski out,” he said. “Our friends built a house right on the lot I’m building on.”

While the location and lot were based on the friend’s house, Cooper added his own extravagant amenities.

“I added the things it was missing,” Cooper said, “like a ski room, kind of like a mudroom, but you come in after skiing and you can store your skis in there.”

The house also has a trampoline (yes, IN the house), and a foam pit in the living room. The second story is lofted “and you can jump into the foam pit from the second floor,” Cooper said.

If you think that is over the top, wait until you hear about the garage. The garage/warehouse includes a pool with changing rooms, storage for mountain “toys” like Jeeps, ATVs, skateboards, and bikes, and – wait for it – a skate park, with a second foam pit. “When I built my house I kinda wanted it to be unique so I put a skatepark in it,” Cooper said.

Although many Colorado mountain homes are used for vacation, Cooper wants to make it his permanent home. “I’d probably live here full time,” he said.

The homes created in the class Architectural Design range from the extreme to the elegant. Cece’s house on the North Shore features a great room with a grand piano and “a morning room facing Lake Superior where you can watch the sunrise through the window. There is a hidden library; if you slide the bookshelf it’ll open the library.”

While she splurged on some areas like the hidden library, other design decisions were based on practicality. “We had to think about the design, too, like how many bathrooms, bedrooms. You can’t just have a fun house.”

Cece learned to pay attention to details when designing. “I had to keep in mind the size (of appliances), especially for the kitchen sinks and toilets. You don’t want it to be too small or too big to fit.”

Space, light, and flow also had to be considered. “I learned that once you start putting walls up you see how open or closed the space is,” Cece said. “When you block off space, it can feel closed in.” She discovered this when she built her dining room. “I removed a wall because it would be too closed in,” she said.

Sophie’s property features a forest of large construction paper trees and a tree house. “It looks kind of crooked like the kids living in the house built it,” Sophie said of her unique tree house.

Ryan placed his dream home in a new development outside of Fargo, North Dakota. “I like flat areas,” he said as he flipped through google images of his building site. The flat open prairie stretched for miles in all directions. “It’s kind of out in the country and it’s away from busy streets, like in St. Paul,” he said.

Sadie’s house is located near Washington, D.C., on High Island in the middle of the Potomac River. “I wanted it to be cabin-like,” so she designed the house to feature a field stone and brick exterior.

One thing she learned about architecture was, “it actually matters where the sun sets and rises. It matters where in the house you would be (during those times),” she said. Those elements determine how buildings are angled and where windows and rooms are placed.

Sadie was happy to be in the design class. “I really like building stuff,” she said. “I came in here every year for Open House for five years.” She was so excited to finally try her hand at designing her own dream home.

Strategy Games of the World

If you’re a gamer, stop in to the class Strategy Games of the World during Open House tonight to play original games created by second and third graders.

“We’re making games for the Open House tonight,” said Henry. His original game is based on an old board game from Norway, called Fox and Geese. “I used the same game board, but added more,” he said. “The objective is not to lose the big piece and all the little pieces.”

Sage’s game is “kind of like checkers and go-muku,” a game from Asia. He started with an original game board design from Morocco, and added his own elements.

Like in checkers, players can use jump moves in Sage’s game. “You win by capturing all the opponent’s pieces,” he said.

Henry and Sage learned lots of different strategies in the class. “We play a game and then we tell our strategies, and then play again,” Henry explained. “After we share our strategies, we practice trying them out by playing again.”

Ramatee took Strategy Games because she “loves to play games,” she said. “My favorite game is Hex. It was easy to learn.”

Ramatee colored the intersecting points of her four-by-four game grid with different colored markers. Her “Four-Way Rainbow Game” is played using blue and pink plastic gem pieces that move along the points with the objective of creating four in a row. After teaching me the game, Ramatee quickly used her learned strategies to defeat me in about six moves.

Teacher Tom Mathern reminded the students to be sure their game was fair and that they can clearly teach it to others.

“What he means by fair is that someone can lose,” Nathan explained. He knows he has accomplished the “fairness” test because, “I haven’t won once!” he said about playing his own game.

Nathan and Maksim reached across the game board and shook hands. From their wide grins and good sportsmanship, it was difficult to figure out who had won and who had lost.

Nathan’s game is based on checkers, which he thinks originally came from England. The square grid board forms the base and the pieces are yellow and blue plastic disks. “You can move and hop any direction and you win by capturing all of the pieces,” he taught me. “You jump over your opponent’s pieces.”

Maksim’s game was influenced by Ceega, a game played in ancient Egypt. It features the unique “sandwich capture” that occurs when a player has surrounded an opponent’s piece on two sides. “The sandwich capture was interesting to me,” Maksim said about why he chose the game board from Ceega.

Good luck defeating these strategic kids at their own games!

Pay to the Order Of: State Fair Entrepreneurs

We all get excited about new food and shopping opportunities at the Minnesota State Fair. The students in Pay to the Order Of have some creative and innovative new offerings for this August.

“Soviet Cakes is a tribute to the Soviet Union for helping us in World War II,” said Tate. The booth sells yellow cake cupcakes with yellowish and strawberry frostings and a raspberry on top. The store flies Soviet flags and includes outdoor and indoor seating.

Tate feels passionately about his business. “I wanted to do a tribute for something,” he explained. “The Soviets helped us in World War II against the Nazis, to help us not get taken over by Nazis. Hitler was a terrible person.”

Matthew pulled a detailed State Fair map out of his cardboard portfolio. “It’s right by the Mighty Midway,” he said, pointing to a prime location on the map. The team had also figured out the best places for customers to park.

While the cupcakes were Matthew’s idea, Tate ended up baking them. “I came up with the idea, but I allowed him to make them,” he said, pointing at Tate.

Willow contributed to the interior design of the business. “They allowed me to bring in some of my doll furniture,” she said. She showed me a fully apportioned bathroom and kitchen complete with necessary appliances.

For Tate, this is no childish fantasy. “In the future, I want to design the actual business of Soviet Cakes,” he said.

Kieran, Firdawsa, and Logan’s fair business is “a booth for ice cream,” Kieran said. “There is a cookie on top, a cookie on the bottom, and ice cream filling.”

They plan to call their booth, Cookie Sandwich. “We figure out how much profit we’re making, where we’re going to put our shop, and what it’s going to look like,” said Kieran.

Alec, Aiden, and Jackson came up with an entirely new business model for the State Fair.

“It’s based off the tabletop adventure game Dungeons and Dragons,” Alec proudly explained. “We’re selling things that have to do with the game.”

Fair goers can enter the business and join in at the gaming table. Alec and Aiden realized as they described the set up that it might be difficult to maintain the game at all times.

“We won’t always have an active campaign running,” Alec mentioned.

“We should have an hourly shift,” Aiden suggested.

The sales floor of the business is organized into categories. “Over here is ancient ruins to buy,” Alec said. They also run a daily talk show about gaming.

They have created a logo, picked monster nicknames, and planned a uniform to wear when they’re on duty.

Parker, Ava, and Elle have marketed their product – multi-colored elephants – to children. “They are sweets that are shaped as elephants, any treat you can think of,” Parker said. “Our target for buyers is kids.”

But unlike the other groups, profit is not a primary concern of their business. “We don’t really expect to make a lot of money. We hope we get money, but that’s not really our target,” Ava said. “We just want people to come, eat, and have fun.”

Eating and having fun – I think they’ve captured the true spirit of the State Fair experience.


The Great Mathematical Escape!

Imagine. It’s 1990. “The Capitalists are taking over. The Soviets are trying to call for help from the aliens so they can take over the world in Communism.” – Kevin

In this Escape Room scenario created by Andrew, Joseph, Warren, and Kevin, the objective is to solve puzzles, figure out riddles, and find clues to “Save the World from Communism”, Kevin said.

“We made a code,” Andrew said. “You have to decipher the code to get a clue.”

“The objective is to escape and go to the command center and shoot down the aliens,” Kevin said.

The team of Evan, Nolan, Mitch, and Winston created an escape room called “Mayday”. “You’re an astronaut in a space capsule on a mission to Mars,” Evan explained. “A meteor hits the capsule and damages it. It starts to lose air fast. The astronauts have to get out quickly before losing air.”

Participants need to “crack the codes”, Evan said. One such clue involves a poem, another requires the use of calculations and the help of calculators. “In an astronaut helmet there’s a code you need to access the second room,” he said.

The second room contains a power generator game players need to access to get on the escape pod. Participants have only 45 minutes to break out before their oxygen is gone.

There is also a game master who can give three free hints when the participants get particularly stuck.

Students in Mathematical Investigations not only created their own escape rooms, but they actually tried to escape from puzzle rooms at Escapology in Bloomington on a recent field trip.

Lauren said her group’s escape room was “sciency. It was called Antidote” and featured Jonas Salk, the developer of a polio vaccine.

“We had to escape the room because an evil scientist doctor made diseases and our brains got infected,” Lauren explained.

“(The scientist) made a thing that would explode in six minutes,” added Golawlye.

Anna said some of the clues were hard to find. “We had to look at this fake alien,” she said.

“It had clues under it,” Lauren continued.

Although the group worked hard to solve their escape, they didn’t quite make it out in the time allotted. “We were so close!” Golawlye said.

Chanel “really likes math” and was excited to take Mathematical Investigations. “When my teacher told me I got invited, I thought it’d be fun,” she remembers. “It was a new opportunity for me.”

Today in class, the students worked together using Pentominoes to create different configurations and patterns. The Pentominoes are colorful, plastic tiles in different sizes. “We have to find different ways to create squares using the Pentominoes,” Chanel explained.

Solving a Pentominoes challenge may just show up on an escape puzzle in the future.