Special visitors at Livermore Elementary School

Planning how to attach a roof to a Lego house

by Libby James

photos by Libby James

On Thursday, February 21, the doors were closed at OtterBox, an internationally-known consumer electronics accessory business based in Fort Collins. All was quiet at company offices because once a year all employees drop what they are doing and spread out into the community to volunteer their services for a day. Their focus is on inspiring young people to become entrepreneurs and philanthropists.

On this day in 2019, Livermore Elementary, a small, k-5 mountain school north of Fort Collins, welcomed four Otter Box employees into their classrooms. By early afternoon, second and third graders had gathered to take part in a “Maker Space” project. Along with the OtterBox visitors, they sat at four round tables, each supplied with different building materials. The tables were challenged with creating a house for the little paper pig at their table.

Each week Stacy Wurtz, school secretary, comes up with a project to encourage creativity and teamwork. Enthusiasm was running high among the students and the OtterBox employees as they discussed the challenge before them. They all knew the story of the three little pigs and the different kinds of houses each one built.

Peter Harper, in risk management at Otterbox, is a veteran of the community volunteer program and explained that in addition to this day when the company closes down, employees choose three days each year to volunteer in the community and are excused from work for the day. Harper has volunteered for Habitat for Humanity, done outdoor restoration work and worked with Life for the Innocent to prevent sex trafficing. Today he encouraged Sophi Lewellen, Micayla Knesel and Chase Hagen as they used wooden sticks and masking tape to create their piggy house.

Dennis Nelson, an international product manager at OtterBox, was happy to be at Livermore school because he lives in the area. He acknowledged the creativity of his team, Michael Knesel, Tanith Paolucci and Abby Brown as they came up with an innovative way to attach a roof to their structure made from Lego blocks.

Human relations specialist, Adamo Busacca worked with Parker Thode and Bella Meurer on a straw bale house that they probably knew was not a likely candidate to survive a windstorm.

Heather Sizemore, in product marketing, became a builder for the day interacting with Ian Jepson, Sophia Ciesse and Ryan Gooch.

When Wurtz pulled out a hair dryer fitted with a big bad wolf paper cone shaped to direct its wind power, everyone knew the moment of truth had arrived. She moved from table to table blasting the houses to see how long they would survive.

We all know how that story ended.

The Otter Box visitors seemed to be having as much or more fun than the students who learned something about the importance of working together and the collaborative nature of problem-solving.

House made from wood.
Stacy Wurtz attacks with her hair dryer.