Carmel Valley student a semi-finalist in national design contest

By Karen Billing

Staff Writer

Out of thousands of entries, Carmel Valley Middle School seventh-grader Xander Westra is among 15 semi-finalists in a national Züca bag design contest. If he wins, his design could be made into a real bag rolling around the country.

Xander Westra (Photo: Karen Billing)

Xander, 12, admits he entered the contest because of his little sister. She loves her Züca bag — a bag on wheels with all sorts of compartments for carrying items that can also double as a seat. His sister uses hers for both school and ice-skating practice.

“Kids at middle school don’t favor Züca bags so much,” he said. “I wasn’t expecting for my design to get picked. I’m not sure I’ll win but I’d like to think I can win.”

Xander’s design is of smiling faces of the sun and the moon, done in bright yellow and blue. The design is titled “12:00 Theater” as he was inspired by his semester of drama class and the comedy and tragedy masks hung on the wall.

People have until April 18 to vote for Xander’s design online at

The contest isn’t the first time one of Xander’s designs has been singled out—last year his design was picked to be the sixth grade camp T-shirt at Solana Pacific School.

Xander Westra’s design

Xander has been drawing and creating art ever since he was little. His mom Rika, also an artist, would give him a piece of paper, glob some paint on his hands and watch him go.

Until he was about 4 years old, Xander loved to draw locomotives and as he got older his imagination and drawings got bigger and bigger.

“Now I focus on drawing machines,” Xander said.

Rika doesn’t allow TV in the home so Xander has let his creativity fly. He’s constantly creating — he builds samurai and medieval-style armor out of popsicle sticks and cardboard, and he and his friends work together on larger building projects, holding meetings at each other’s houses.

“We’re working on a tank design out of PVC pipe that you’re actually going to be able to get into. It’s going to have a tennis ball cannon,” Xander said.

Mom Rika is proud of Xander’s artistic initiative.

“I wanted my kids to be creative and make use of their minds instead of just vegging out,” she said. “He’s done a good job.”

All of Xander’s work is good practice for the future—his goal when he grows up is to become an architect or an engineer.

To vote for Xander’s design, visit




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