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Happy Hanukkah! Impressive projects combine creativity with technology

The grand-prize winner of the 21st annual Hanukkah Art Contest is this plywood and copper Hanukkiah created by Isaac Baran, a seventh-grade student at Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy.Photo by Scott Fishman

Even superheroes need a great miracle!

That’s the message first-grader Shia Kolb presented in his lower-division winning art project. Judges in this year’s Hanukkah Art Contest sponsored by The Chronicle and Chabad House Center agreed.

Eleven art projects were entered in the 21st annual Hanukkah Art Contest. Art projects ranged from drawings of Maccabees, to superhero stickers, to greeting cards to the grand-prize winner wooden Hanukkiah, designed and created by Isaac Baran. The upper division winner was Gabriella Granoff. 

Rabbi Mendy Wineberg, program director for Chabad House, said the entries showed a lot of thought and creativity once again this year.

“We had entries that incorporated the latest technology, which is something the Rebbe would always talk about,” Rabbi Wineberg said. “He believed it was always a good idea to use what’s out there in the service of the good and the holy. With technology so pervasive in our lives today, it’s important that the kids realize that it’s not used just for the simple and the mundane, but to further advance their Judaism.”

Chabad provides all the prizes for the contest. The grand-prize winner received a Robotics Smart Machines Kit. The first prize winners in both the upper and lower divisions were each awarded with a $50 gift card to Target or Michael’s. Every entrant receives free admission to Chabad’s Chanukah on Ice event on Monday, Dec. 18. (See page 19 for more information.)

Grand-prize winner Isaac Baran

Isaac is a seventh-grade student at Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy (HBHA) and the son of Andrea and Robert Baran. He created a wooden and brass Hanukkiah that says Happy Hanukkah.

He used two computer programs to help him design his Hannukiah — Tinkercad (a program used by designers, hobbyists, teachers and kids for uses including making toys, prototypes, home décor, Minecraft models and jewelry) and Autodesk A360. Among other things, Autodesk A360 allows the user to manage and share project content and information as well as receive comments on the project.

Isaac said once he designed the project, he rode his bike to the store to purchase the materials — plywood, epoxy adhesives and copper pipes. He also made an appointment at the Black & Veatch MakerSpace located at the Johnson County Central Resource Library. There he was able to use the Carvey CNC machine to produce his design. This machine, which is free to users, carves wood and other materials, including some metals, using a router bit and a computer program. It can cut materials up to 8 inches wide, 12 inches long and 1.5 inches deep. Patrons bring their own materials for cutting/engraving and the MakerSpace provides the bits.

Isaac’s Hanukkiah is actually two pieces of plywood glued together. He used epoxy to secure the copper pipe to the wood. He chose copper pipes to hold the candles so the piece of art could also be functional. He said he hopes to use the menorah this year.

He estimates he worked on the project for about four days, starting with formulating the idea to using the computer program to purchasing the materials to cutting them and putting them all together.

Isaac said he likes creating things with plywood and using the CNC machine.

“The first thing I used it for was when I made my first fidget spinner when that trend was around, and then I started doing more intricate things. I tried CNC cutting an earring set for my mom, but that didn’t work out, so I cut a heart for Mother’s Day with the laser cutter at the library. That’s another fun thing that I did.” 

This is the first time he entered the contest and didn’t think he’d actually win.

“I thought there would be a lot of other really nice entries. I was iffy, thinking maybe I would win second place but I didn’t think I would get first.”

Isaac considers himself both an artist and an inventor.

“I like doing art, I’ve made many self-portraits. Right now, I am working on these little pendants that use epoxy and wood,” he explained. “It’s a complicated process involving breaking the wood, making a mold, casting it, sanding it and polishing.

“It’s like this cool looking see-through pendant.”

But this week, Isaac, who will turn 13 in March and have a Bar Mitzvah ceremony in May in Israel, is just happy he won this contest.

The paper cut Happy Hanukkah card was designed and created by Gabriella Granoff, a seventh-grader at HBHA, and took first place in the upper school division. Photo by Scott Fishman

Upper division winner Gabriella Granoff

Gabriella, the daughter of Dara and Dave Granoff, won the upper school division comprised of grades five through eight. She is also a seventh-grade student HBHA and became a Bat Mitzvah in March 2017 at Congregation Beth Israel Abraham and Voliner.

Gabriella decided to enter the contest while working on a Hanukkah card project in art class at HBHA.

“In art class we were making cards and I remembered about the contest and I decided to make mine for the contest.”

She chose paper cutting for the class project turned art contest entry because she thinks “papercuts look nice and I can do them good.” It took her about three hours to create the card.

Her Hanukkah card is white, with cutouts in turquoise blue and gold. She also handwrote Happy Hanukah! in a darker, deeper shade of blue on the card. This is the first time she entered the art portion of the contest. She previously entered a poem in the written category.

Shia Kolb’s ‘Even superheroes need a great miracle’ is the lower-division art contest winner for 2017/5778. Photo by Scott Fishman

Lower school winner Shia Kolb

Why a superhero Hanukkah project? Simple. Shia, the 7-year-old son of Stephanie and Alex Kolb, likes superheroes so he came up with this year’s winning slogan, “Even superheroes need a great miracle!” He is a member of Congregation Beth Torah and a first-grader at Lakewood Elementary School. 

Winning runs in the family for Shia, who has entered both times he has been eligible to compete. His brothers have produced winning entries in the past. For his project, Shia said he painted it and chose the superhero stickers. He needed a little help from his mom for the actual gluing after he placed everything exactly where he wanted it.

As for the “Happy Chanukah” straws used to make the Hanukkah menorah, they were purchased at the Beth Torah Gift Shop.

Complete list of entrants

Grand Prize winner: Isaac Baran

Upper division winner: Gabriella Granoff

Lower division winner: Shia Kolb

Honorable mentions:

Eli Maker

Asa Maker

Abigail Miller

Maya Muller

Noah Muller

Teddy Natenberg 

Yehuda Schneur

Srolly Sosover

Chanukah on Ice

Chabad House will host its annual Chanukah on Ice at The Ice at Park Place on the eighth night of the Festival of Lights. The event begins at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 19. Admission is free; skating is $10.

The late afternoon of holiday fun will include skating to Chanukah tunes, fresh sufganiyot (jelly donuts), hot cocoa and, of course, the lighting of all eight candles on the menorah. You won’t want to miss watching Kansas City Chief’s offensive tackle Mitchell Schwartz light the giant menorah with a blow torch!

For more information contact the Chabad House at 913-649-4852 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..