By Diana Matthews
Rossy Ballesteros, an advanced masonry student at Columbus Career and College Academy, won $1,000 in prizes this week for her entry in the Build Your Future contest sponsored by the National Center for Construction Education and Research.
Ballesteros is attending CCCA for a fifth year to earn her associate degree after completing Advanced Studies under the guidance of instructor Fred Mason during the spring.
She previously won prizes in SkillsUSA competition and at the H.A. Hardy Memorial High School Masonry Contest. Ballesteros’ senior masonry project, which she completed in the spring, was a custom-designed mailbox pillar incorporating several specialized bricklaying techniques.
Mason remarked that Ballesteros got frustrated with simple assignments he gave her but was enthusiastic about the more complicated jobs. Ballesteros and Mason created a video about the mailbox project and posted it last month at the NCCER’s “I Built This!” website, along with projects by a dozen other high school and post-secondary students.
Each finalist had the opportunity to explain what he or she had constructed and how. Of the other finalists in the contest, seven had completed, or assisted on, carpentry projects ranging from a doghouse to a house.
Three projects were in the heating/air conditioning/ventilation (HVAC) field, and two were metalworking jobs. Ballesteros was the only contestant exhibiting a masonry project and also the only female. Competition was stiff.
Professional judges awarded first-place honors for individual and group competitions for both secondary and post-secondary students. NCCER judges gave the first-place secondary level awards, both individual and group, to students at Carroll County Career and Technical Center in Maryland.
The individual winner had devised a lifting and log-splitting mechanism to meet the needs of a local business.
]The group award went to two students at the same school who designed and built a set of steel and wood steps for disabled children to use in physical therapy sessions. Post-secondary awards went to apprentices already employed in construction trades.
The individual winner’s video explained his role in retrofitting a Washington, D.C. building’s heating and air conditioning systems to achieve “net zero status,” in which the building would produce the same amount of energy it uses in a year.
The group post-secondary award went to a team of young workers assisting on construction of a college dormitory in Virginia. In addition to the judges’ awards, a People’s Choice category was up for grabs, and that is where Ballesteros swept the field.
Visitors to the website cast a total of 4,916 votes over 17 days, out of which Ballesteros received 2,487 votes, or slightly more than all 12 of her competitors combined, making her the clear winner in the People’s Choice category.
In her video at nccer.org, Ballesteros describes the stages of her project and says that she enjoys masonry but probably will not make a career of it.
The online video contest “gives aspiring craft professionals and their instructors an opportunity to showcase outstanding construction projects,” according to the sponsoring group.