The students tour the Buffalo plant and have conferences with Toyota representatives to get an idea of what their business is about, and what they want in a holiday card. After students submit their first design proposals, they get feedback from Toyota officials before they turn in the final product.
Second-place winner Sara Phelix, for example, made a card with a mechanical reindeer powered by an engine.
She worked with Toyota officials to make sure that the engine she showed resembles an actual Toyota engine (it does, but she went with the four-cylinder model instead of the six-cylinder, because it was easier to make).
And on Hurley's original design, the globe was rotated in a way that didn't show North America. The judges suggested that she shift the perspective, to illustrate that Toyota has a local slant, too. In the end product, the globe shows North America, and a red star marks West Virginia.
"I'm really glad they did that," she said. "It's something I never even thought of, and it makes it better."
That's part of what the contest is meant to promote, said Sandy Maynard, the Toyota spokeswoman who worked most closely with the kids through the process.
"We want it to be a back-and-forth relationship," she said. "So it's just like they're in the design business."
Contact writer Shay Maunz at shay.ma...@dailymail.com or 304-348-4886.