GRAPEVINE Earlier this year, Benjamin Kobel entered a North American contest asking youth ages 5-14 to build creative original models for K’NEX, a U.S. construction toy company.
Using only K’NEX, Benjamin created a marionette puppet he called Bobby.
“I was struggling to come up with a name and Bobby is what I came up with,” Benjamin said. “I don’t know why.”
The nationwide K’NEXpert Search challenged young builders to design and submit a creative, original model made entirely from K’NEX parts that were judged on criteria such as originality, creativity and complexity of the model, given the age category.
Benjamin, a student at Cannon Elementary in Grapevine, was chosen as one of eight semi-finalists in his age group, 9-11. Online voting to become a finalist took place mid October. He received enough votes to become a finalist.
“A lot of people at my school voted for me,” said Benjamin, 10, the son of Karl and Katrina Kobel.
The fifth-grader added that his teacher, Jennifer Schultz, encouraged other students to vote for him.
“When they found out I won, they said, ‘You’re so lucky.’ ” Benjamin said.
Benjamin, who has been building stuff since he was 3, plans to become an engineer. He said Bobby took about 30 minutes to assemble.
Submissions had to include photos of the creation and a short video or one-page summary describing how the child came up with the idea, how long the design took to build and how many K’NEX pieces were used.
The search ran through Aug. 29 with winners announced in October.
Annual K’NEXpert winners and Joe Smith, chief development officer of K’NEX, chose Benjamin as the grand prize winner for his age group.
Four grand prize winners were selected, one from each of the four different age groups: 5-6 years old, 7-8 years old, 9-11 years old and 12-14 years old.
The four winners each received a prize package valued at approximately $2,000.
The winners were posted on the company’s website in November.
Benjamin’s K’NEXpert winnings were $1000, a $500 K’NEX gift card good toward a company shopping spree, an iPad Mini, an invitation to visit K’NEX headquarters in Pennsylvania and a presence on the K’NEX website featuring his marionette and his photograph.
“I’m going save most of it for college,” Benjamin said.
Mom Katrina said she was proud, but not surprised her son won.
“He has such creativity,” she said “He amazes me.”