NIACC Stories

NIACC hosts Design-Build Competition

Is it plumb? Is it level and square?  Is it aesthetically pleasing? Does it follow the blueprint?  If your project meets these criteria, you might be a winner at NIACC’s 23rd annual Design-Build Competition.

About 40 students and their teachers from 10 area high schools were invited to NIACC for some fun and friendly competition.  Over $2000 in prizes were donated for the winning schools.  The event was held on the NIACC Campus on Wednesday, May 11.

Gregg Helmich

Gregg Helmich, NIACC Building Trades Instructor, looks over plans

Each school was given a plan and the materials to build a large wood shed with walls, sloped roof and floor.   Three hours later, voilà— the projects were completed.

Gregg Helmich, NIACC Building Trades Instructor, organized the event  “It’s a great way to promote the trades, to show the value of trades education and to try to solve the skilled trades shortage.”

All the lumber was donated by the Contractors Advisory Association.

The average age of the skilled laborer is 55 years old according to Helmich.   In an effort to show young people that trades can be a pretty cool profession, a roundtable discussion was held via zoom with several popular internet influencers.

“It’s a lot of fun.  There’s a lot of energy in the room today” said Helmich.

Ian Miller, a student at Mason City High School, agreed while fastening the roof on his team’s shed,  “It’s pretty fun! I like the pace.  You have to work together.”

After the saws stopped spinning and the saw dust settled the judges got down to judging.

Brandon Patterson, co-founder of the Iowa Skilled Trades organization, came from Des Moines to help decide the winner.  “It’s a great way to showcase their talents, keep them engaged, energized and to help them realize the great opportunities.”

West Hancock

The West Hancock team took home the top prize

When the awards were read over the loudspeaker, Brayden Langfitt, Llan Martinez, Kennedy Kelley, Mathew Francis of the West Hancock team came out on top.  They carried their giant box of new tools and put them in their winning shed.

Like a football coach responding after a state championship victory, their shop teacher Paul Francis responded humbly, “This is what we teach them to do.”

Participating Schools and Contractors:

St. Ansgar— Tony Duncomb, Young Construction

West Fork– Joe Engels, representing Alpha Roofing and NIBE

West Hancock— Dylan from Henkel Construction

Rockford— Jennifer Breister, Crown Point Builders

Osage— Bert Vigen, Habitat for Humanity of North IA

Charles City—Keegan Ginapp, Crown Point Builders

Hampton-Dumont—Eric Sipress, Dean Snyder Construction

Clear Lake High School—Jordan Manning, Manning Construction

Mason City High School—Julie Weide, Henkel Construction

Event Sponsors:

Simpson StrongTie

Contractor’s Advisory Association

North Iowa Builder’s Exchange

ACME tools

Morton Buildings, Inc.


Questions or comments?  Email Arian Schuessler,


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North Iowa Area Community College, founded in 1918, is a nationally-recognized, two-year college located in central North Iowa.  With approximately 3,000 career and transfer students, the College has been recognized by the Aspen Institute as a leading community college in the nation.  NIACC welcomes students from across Iowa, Minnesota, the nation, and the world. The College has served as a leader in student-centered learning, community engagement, and collaborative leadership for more than 100 years.  

NIACC hosts Design-Build Competition
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