Winters High School’s Ag Construction Team recently participated in the Construction Industry Education Foundation’s Design Build (CIEF) competition. Under the tutelage of educator Donnie Whitworth, the squad brought home a People’s Choice award. The construction class — a third-year course in the WHS ag mechanics program — focuses on wood-frame construction and building mini barns and sheds. At year’s end, the CIEF holds a competition at Cosumnes River College where teams build a shed in two days. The pandemic, however, kept the teams and competition remote. “The CIEF is a subgroup of the Sacramento Regional Builders Exchange that supports scholarships for students entering the trades and competition. They started the Design Build competition 35 years ago and this is our 15th year participating,” Whitworth said. “The CIEF solicits funds to support all of the schools, so when we enter the competition all of the materials are donated to the program.” Unfortunately, the she-shed with French doors the class intended on building was a little outside of the budget. Instead, they whipped up a simple, yet sturdy 8-by-12 shed that stood strong against the competition. “There were 44 schools in the competition, and we were nominated as one of the eight for the People’s Choice award. So, we did a social media campaign encouraging people to vote online,” Whitworth said about winning the award. “Two days later I got an email saying we won the People’s Choice Award. We also won Best in Show in open competition because our design didn’t fit into their parameters.” To say the community supported the team would be an understatement, as more than 2,100 votes flooded the polls and secured the People’s Choice Award for WHS. “It was the highlight of our year. For a lot of kids, just going to the competition was special,” Whitworth said about the impact of competing in the midst of the pandemic. “Some of our seniors in the construction class said going to the shed building competition was one of their favorite moments in their FFA career.” Whitworth commends the Construction Industry Education Foundation for making the competition happen during a COVID year — despite lumber becoming far more expensive. The team also received a much-needed sponsorship from Brown Construction in Sacramento, who has been supporting the team for the last five years. Although many students don’t know about this or other ag competitions, Whitworth encourages them to sign up and partake in the experience. It not only provides fond memories of creating something with a team, but teaches youth practical skills they’ll take carry with them like a tool belt the rest of their lives.