High School Design Contest Plugs Housing Careers

U.S. Home has come up with a great idea to get kids fired up about careers in the housing industry: a 'Building Homes And Futures' design competition among local high school students.

April 27, 2000
Winning designer Robyn Nook, 17, and her model are flanked by (left to right): Mark Attar, U.S. Home vp; Riverview High assistant principal Paul Gallagher, Ph.D.; Joy DuPree, U.S. Home vp; and Charles A. Danna Jr., U.S. Home regional vp.


U.S. Home has come up with a great idea to get kids fired up about careers in the housing industry: a "Building Homes And Futures" design competition among local high school students.

Builders and/or HBAs across the country would be smart to follow this lead, because recruiting talented young people is going to be the biggest challenge this industry faces over the next ten years. And this idea really worked.

The design competition was the brainchild of U.S. Home’s Sarasota (Fla.) division, led by president Rob Allegra and marketing vp Joy DuPree, who enlisted the involvement of Cindy Lippert, fine arts coordinator for the Sarasota County School Board.

The contest challenged art and drafting students at Booker, Riverview, Sarasota, and Venice High Schools, and the Sarasota County Technical Institute, to design their personal dream home, then build a scale model of it from any non-hazardous material.


Sarasota High student Sean Mahaffey won the"most creative use of materials" category with this wooden beach house, enlivened with a real sand beach. Sliding glass doors open all sides to cooling breezes. The cupola vents rising hot air.


Those models were then judged in categories including creative use of materials, best floor plan, most functional, and most futuristic. The top prize, best of show, carried a $1000 savings bond for the winning student and a $2000 grant to the winning school, to be used for purchase of art supplies. Each school selected 10 models to be entered in the final judging.

"I see this as a way to help students make the connection between art class and the real world," says Lippert. "It isn’t always clear to a student how today’s lessons will serve tomorrow’s needs in the workplace and beyond. This program is a very good example of career preparation. We’re also pleased by the enthusiasm shown by our students."

Robyn Nook, 17, a junior at Riverview High, took the top prize with a model built from contact board, old wallpaper, and other odds and ends. The 3000 square-foot design includes two secondary bedrooms adjoining a private game room.

"My design is influenced by the different places I’ve lived," says Robyn. "It’s definitely one of my dream homes." Her model also won in the ‘best floor plan’ category. She plans a career in design.

"We’re excited to be partnering with area schools to promote the building industry as a viable career," says Allegra. "We also think this contest may help builders think outside the box regarding future housing design."

A day after the formal judging, local realtors were invited to view the models and vote for a "Realtors’ Pick," which was won by Paul Baker of Sarasota High. Brad Czachur of Venice High won "most futuristic" with an underwater home. Sean Mahaffey of Sarasota High won for "most creative use of materials."

U.S. Home pulled off this entire public relations coup for $14,000.


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