Conant student wins 211 CAD Competition

When Emma Martchenkov was young, she enjoyed playing a game on the video platform Roblox called "Bloxsburg," in which the player designs and builds houses in a virtual community.

When she started her freshman year at James B. Conant High School, she decided she wanted to try doing it on a real-life scale, so she enrolled in Conant's Computer Aided Drafting classes.

In December, Martchenkov, now a sophomore, competed in the District 211 CAD competition, where two students from each school presented their designs to a panel of judges with the hopes that their house would be the next one built by students in the district's building construction program.

Following a lengthy deliberation, Martchenkov was declared the winner.

"I am excited and pretty surprised that I won," she said. "But I came in here determined."

Jeff Robinson, an Applied Technology teacher at Conant, shared Martchenkov's excitement.

"Emma has come in before school and stayed late after school working on her design," he said. "There have been a lot of variations and changes, but she worked through them to come up with the win."

Hoffman Estates High School building construction teacher Todd Stennett served as a judge for the competition, which also drew business partners who are experts in the field. He said one of the deciding factors of Martchenkov's design was its ability to be built with few changes.

"Emma's design is the easiest to build right now," he said. "Load-bearing walls, walls for plumbing, electrical and HVAC are all lining up. Some of the other designs had second floor walls that weren't supported by the floor below."

Robinson said he saw a lot of promise in Martchenkov's first year and has watched her progress. He said that this is giving her an experience many high school students never receive.

"If students want to become an architect, they will have to go through five years of school and pass a lot of licensing exams," he said. "Even after that, they will not be the sole designer. For our students, they are getting the rare opportunity to design something and see it built as a teenager."

Martchenkov said she is very aware of how lucky she is to have this opportunity.

"I am so grateful for these opportunities to go through our passions," she said. "I want to go to school for architecture. This is going to be great to talk about in my portfolio. Most architects must wait years to build their own designs, so to say I built one my sophomore year is amazing."

All five District 211 high schools offer CAD classes. All five also have students participating in the building construction class, which allows students to explore the trades by remodeling or building homes within the community that are then sold, all under the guidance of instructors.

"This is hands-on learning that is truly giving our students real-world experiences you can't find everywhere," said Michele Napier, director of College and Career Readiness.

"Our students are leaving our schools with skills, experiences and credentials that will put them ahead when they graduate."

Construction of the house will begin during the 2024-2025 school year, when Martchenkov is a senior. She said she plans to visit the construction site to watch the progress.

Computer Aided Drafting student and Conant sophomore Emma Martchenkov was named the winner of District 211's latest competition for house design. She's pictured with her instructor, Jeff Robinson. Courtesy of District 211
Students from all five District 211 schools pose together with their submitted home designs at District 211's CAD competition. The contest served as a vehicle for selecting the next home that will be designed by students in the district's building construction program. Courtesy of District 211
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