Fine craftsmanship and competition converged Saturday as local students displayed their hand made furniture for all to see. As a part of the first annual Battle of the Build competition, Maryville High School, Maryville Junior High and Heritage High School each submitted a chair constructed by a team of students to be reviewed by a panel off four judges.
Heritage students claimed first prize among the entries for their antique style chair, with Maryville Junior High claiming second and Maryville High School third. Lee Martin, a teacher of residential construction at Heritage, helped guide his students to create the furniture piece that would eventually gain first place. Martin expressed pride in his students' drive and imagination, as the chair itself was constructed partly from an old door stored in a shed behind the school's grounds. "The competition really drove the kids to work hard and use their creativity," Martin said of his students. "I tried to make them think outside of the box and come up with something unique." After three weeks of work and with a budget of only $25, the Heritage students gleamed as their finished work was announced the winner, going so far as to dump a cooler of shredded newspaper on Martin's head. Despite the effort that went into the creation, Heritage student and team member Jordan Sands views that work and others like it as nothing but enjoyment.
"It's fun just getting out and creating stuff," said Sands, noting that he would like to one day turn his love of craftsmanship into a construction career. While he doesn't identify himself as an artist, Martin nevertheless enjoys the often unpredictable process of gathering raw materials and creating something to take pride in. "We're cutting stuff, putting it together and seeing how it turns out," he said. Brad McDougall, president of the Maryville Alcoa Home Builders Association, which organized the competition, hopes the event may spark interest in the construction trade among Blount County youth. Emphasizing the growing economy and the need for experienced craftsmen in the field, Brad hopes to make students aware of the many promising career choices with in the realm of craft work. "We think that it's really important to let people know that there are some very exciting careers and jobs available in the construction trades," McDougall said.
"We're all scrambling to find some qualified people to bring up into the business, and there are a lot of kids who frankly might not be a good fit for higher education." For Maryville High sophomore James Simpson, working with tools is more than a useful skill, but a point of pride. "You get something made from your own hands, you can take pride in something and you can observe it," said James. Like many other Maryville students, Simpson puts his skills to good use through his work with Blount County Habitat for Humanity, a non-profit Christian housing ministry that helps construct homes for those in need. After deciding the winner of the competition, judge Jamie Hunt felt optimistic about the competition's future with hopes of expanding participants to other schools across Blount County. "The kids are really excited about it. I think they'll do it again if we bring it back."
BY TANNER HANCOCK- Daily Times Correspondent