Central Academy class ­tackles donation drive in a unique way

by Brian Carlton 

Union County Weekly

Students from Debra Cochran’s geometry class use cans of food to assemble a giant sculpture as part of their bid to ‘Erase Hunger.’

The first parts of the blueprint were assembled before Christmas. During the new semester, bits and pieces started coming together, schemes and drawings, as Debra Cochran’s geometry class at the Central Academy of Technology tried to make their plan a reality. Instead of the normal canned food drive, Cochran’s class wanted to use geometry and mathematics principles to build a can sculpture, with cans of specific sizes and colors.

It was a plan that met with some trial and error along the way, before finally being unveiled the week of January 28 in Monroe. Between 1000 to 1100 cans were used and then donated to Monroe’s Loaves and Fishes, when all was said and done.

“Years ago, I’d seen something like this done in a magazine, with the food given away to food banks,” Cochran said. “And I thought, we could use this as a way to collect donations and also teach the kids about geometry.”

This wasn’t the first time Cochran had attempted to do something like this, but in previous years, she never had the time, with both state and federal testing. Now with state tests out of the way, Cochran said there was more time to teach.

And so construction began. Cochran said the class picked a model out of canstruction.org, a website that gets engineering design students to take part in sculpture competitions. Originally, it was supposed to be a hexagon on top of circles, but that didn’t exactly work, Cochran said, so they went a different route

“We were able to use a lot of our geometry in working with the design,” Cochran said. “We determined what the diameter of the cans needed to be, what size each one needed to be.”

Students and Cochran herself reached out to parents to help purchase the cans, since they had to be specific sizes and colors, then the Monroe Food Lion on Franklin Street helped by donating the rest.

“We even had parents helping us to pick up the cans and to work with the actual build,” Cochran said.

Students meanwhile worked on the designs at home and at school, connecting through the class’s Moodle site.

Students focused on the IT side of things worked on the Moodle site, pre-engineering and automotive students worked on the design and build. All parts of the class took a hand in a specific part of the task.

“Building it was the most fun,” 16 year old Mason Meteer said. The 10th grader said he had fun, even though the designs had to be changed, sometimes after collapsing.

“We looked at pictures on the web of different sculptures and tried to imitate them,” 15 year old Josh Barnes said. “We picked what we thought would be the easiest to do.”

Giving to Loaves and Fishes

Loaves and Fishes is a non-profit local food pantry in Monroe, created in 1984 by volunteers. Al Deal, its director, estimates that last year alone, the group served over 500 people. Over the years, there have been partnerships between Central Academy and the pantry, with students coming by sometimes once a week to sort food as new donations come in. Now students were bringing in donations of a different size.

“Once the students explained what they were going to do, we were enthusiastic to work with them,” Deal said. “Once the sculpture was dismantled, we counted between 1000 to 1100 cans of food going into the pantry here. It was a great job by everyone around.”

So much so that it gave Deal an idea, to possibly expand from one sculpture to several next year, as a challenge from Central Academy of Technology to the other schools in Union County.

“Why not do a challenge between the schools?” Deal said. “It raises awareness and gets everyone involved.

Meteer said he and his other classmates would be glad to defend their title next year.

“Definitely,” Meteer said. “It would bring in a lot more cans and it would be a lot of fun, beating the other schools.”


Favorite Things for a CAUSE salutes  Debra Cochran and her geometry class at the Central Academy of Technology for addressing this food drive  in a very unique way! Thank you Brian for allowing us this opportunity to share such an inspiring story.


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