Friends Explore Construction Careers through Learn2Build

By: Emily Sweeney

Central Middle School seventh graders Dylan Combs and Landon Kohler have known each other since first grade. Like many of their peers, Dylan and Landon enjoy playing sports and doing activities with friends.

That’s why the pair participated in White Bear Lake Area High School’s Learn2Build event, one of several daylong programs hosted throughout Minnesota this summer to introduce middle school students to careers in the construction building trades.

Learn2Build is a statewide program designed to increase awareness about careers in the construction building trades among middle school students in Minnesota. Construction Careers Foundation funds the program and caters to kids in grades 4-9 by applying Science, Technology, Engineering and Math to “real-world” construction materials and processes through fun, take-home projects.

“We saw it in our school announcements. I thought it sounded pretty fun, so me and Landon signed up for it,” Dylan said.

The pair spent the morning crafting marshmallow launchers from PVC pipe. They learned how to measure, cut, read blueprints and use construction related skills to build their launchers. Dylan and Landon were the first to complete their launchers, but not without some struggle.

Landon and Kohler cut PVC pipes for marshmallow launchers. Students at White Bear Lake Area High School’s Learn2Build event took home marshmallow launchers and bridges they built at the program. Photo Credit:Emily Sweeney

“I think the more difficult part was getting the exact measurements,” Dylan said. “The easy part was just kind of cutting all the pipes and putting it together.”

The pair checked over each other’s measurements and beamed when the launchers matched. While many teachers might avoid marshmallow launch practice, Mary DesJarlais, director of the Learn2Build program, encouraged the kids to test their creations.

“They get immediate satisfaction from something they’ve done,” DesJarlais said. “They just light up.”

Kohler holds up his marshmallow launcher. He followed a blueprint to measure, cut and connect pieces of PVC pipe. Photo Credit:Emily Sweeney


For both Dylan and Landon, the satisfaction of building something with their hands began when they worked with their fathers on various projects around the house.

“I usually help my dad on his car,” Dylan said. “I really like building stuff.”

Dylan and Landon are ambitious. Throughout the process they talked about their high school plans and dream jobs.

“Yeah, I’d consider construction for a job some day,” Landon said. As for which trade specifically, “that’s what I don’t know yet, but I thought this program might help me figure that out.”

To learn more about Learn2Build, visit ConstructionCareers.org/programs.