Nivie and EmberThis week in Engineering, we practiced our basic tool skills such as how to hammer nails into wood, how to take them out, how to use a screw-driver without stripping the screw, how to use a Speed Square, and how to safely cut wood using a rough-cut saw.   After breaking 11 coping saws, we realized that there is a lot to learn, and it isn’t as easy as it looks! In addition to that, we divided into groups such as Fundraising, Materials, Sponsorship, Tools etc. Each group had about six students. We were in the Fundraising group, and we were in charge of conjuring up the entire budget for our program. This involves a lot of branching out to businesses and community leaders, which we have some experience with because we are in MSEL! Ember contacted the Marin IJ newspaper to ask for advertising space, which they generously provided in a donation worth about $705! Thank you to all of our other Sponsors, donors, and supporters! We greatly appreciate all the help. We also wrote a bulletin message for our school, bribing students with lollipops  if they or their families donate wood or materials. Others in the group were looking into contacting radio stations for more advertising space, or getting funds directly from other sources. If you have lots of extra money lying around, by the way, you should probably give it to us. It’s a good cause, you know, for the kids and stuff. Through making these groups, we were also hoping to find a donation of wood to make a high-quality fence around our school’s organic garden. We are also going to raise the planter boxes. Right now, some students are working on a sketch of the garden dimensions and what we would like it to look to give to Clough Construction who have generously offered to donate wood.

MarinSEL EngineeringAlso…. we started our first project!!! We are making small boxes for the teachers that they can keep scrap paper in and reuse later. Through this project, we are practicing with the coping saw, drills, spindal sanders, and the belt sander. Even aside from all the work, we enjoyed having our own special locker room and our own individual tool belts.

We would like to share a story with you entitled ‘That Time When What I Learned in Engineering Class Saved My Life and The World.’ . . . However, we don’t have a story like that… yet! So Ember will tell her story called ‘How What I Learned in Engineering Class Sort of Helped the Window Guy.’ It’s a great story:

MarinSEL EngineeringSo, I was tutoring this kid because I am a wonderful person who does things like that, not at all because I need the money. As I was saying, this kid that I was tutoring was getting his windows replaced, and there were three guys going around doing this to all the windows. They all had Tool Belts (Engineering vocabulary: a belt with pouches and pockets, for tools) and various tools such as the Level (Engineering vocabulary: that thingy with the liquid with bubbles that you can use to hang pictures and other wall accessories), the Hammer (you should know this one), and a lot of other good stuff. One of the window people was a rookie, you could tell, because he was just running around holding ladders and handing people things. The Rookie had just run outside to the call of Window Man 1, when Window Man 2 stuck out his hand and said, “Clawbar.” I have no idea why he needed a clawbar, but I knew what it was, so I handed it to him. I felt very accomplished, and kind of shocked that something happened to me that related to Engineering in perfect timing for me to write about it in this blog. Life is awesome that way.

MarinSEL EngineeringThank you for that story Ember. I think that we all felt accomplished after this week. I know that I didn’t know the name of any tools, and I know I scared Ms. Oropallo on the first day with the rough-cut saw, but now I know what I am doing with it, and we are all slowly learning what all the tools are called and how to use them. Other projects that we are looking forward to doing in the future are owl boxes, solar playhouses, saw horses, and special benches that also fold into tables! We all look forward to this year and the many projects and challenges ahead of us.

Fun Facts About Tools & Wood:

  • The most common metal used in nails is steel.
  • Hardwood isn’t necessarily harder than Softwood; Softwoods are all types of coniferous, or evergreen, trees. Hardwoods are not.
  • Eastern Red Cedar is a type of wood that is reputed to repel moths.
  • Planks of wood are all measurably half an inch smaller than what they are labeled to be; for example, a 2 x 4 would actually be 1 and a half inches by 3 and a half inches if you measured it. There are a couple reasons for this but one is because wood shrinks as it loses moisture after it is cut, so the initial cut measurements are inaccurate.


  1. By the way, all of those Fun Facts I wrote are things we learned in the first week of Ms. Oropallo’s class! We are definitely learning a lot of really important and exciting things. I can’t wait to continue putting them to good use!

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