2023 Build-A-Hut Camp and Competition

News • August 31st, 2023

On August 1st, Aqua-Africa and the Douglas-Sarpy County 4-H brought 40 middle-schoolers to Millwork Commons and The Living Room Event Space as a part of the second annual “Build-A-Hut” STEM youth summer camp and competition.

Youth teams from Girls Inc., Boys & Girls Club, Partnership 4 Kids, Completely Kids, and several Nebraska 4-H clubs including Douglas, Sarpy, Dodge and Madison Counties were trained in construction techniques and paired with an enthusiastic coach from a local architecture, construction, or engineering firm who helped them develop their competition strategy. Those firms included, Embris Group of Fort Calhoun, Brester Construction, Boyd Jones, Branch Pattern, Olsson, Black and Veatch, and the Army Corps of Engineers. The level of instruction and coaching was outstanding.

The youth received expert instruction in hand tool usage from Brester Construction’s team of volunteers, that included Chris “Mac” McInerny, Kirk Wilke, and Dave Lockridge. For many of the youth it was their first-time using power tools. They both assembled, then dis-assembled, huts using a variety of tools including electric screwdrivers, staple guns, levels, pliers, mallets, paint rollers and the other hand tools presented to them in a toolbox. “It is amazing!” said one adult observer. “I wish they’d had something like this when I was a kid,” they said.


Following competition preparation, the youth were treated to an incredibly memorable tour of Millwork Commons and its Dizzy Mule Development taking place just north of the Charles Schwab Stadium at 13th and Nicholas Street.  The development is converting historic structures into 172 apartments, with space for retailers and artists. The youth toured the inside of the structures as framing was being completed and before electrical or plumbing work had begun. They also watched a crane operator and team lift steel beams into place. Following the tour, the Dizzy Mule Developer, Bluestone Development, treated that youth to ice cream at Coneflower Creamery in the Ashton Building.

“It’s so great to get middle school youth into a hard hat area to see the construction taking place. We need more builders!” said Dana Bradfield of Aqua-Africa. “Throughout camp we encourage youth to stay the course with Math and Science when they enter high school… the Build-A-Hut summer camp lets them experience the practical application of math and science, while also learning about risk management and culture in another part of the world (Africa). Many thanks to the folks at Millwork Commons who helped with these arrangements!”

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