Tool Time

No matter what we choose to do with our lives, engineering will always be relevant. Even if we choose a profession that never requires us to even look at a drill, it will always be an advantage to know how to use a hammer, chop saw, impact driver, and all the tools in between.

Before junior year started, my knowledge of engineering, both as a class and a subject, was very limited. I had helped my dad build before, but never without his close instruction. On the first day of school I walked into the Engineering workshop and realized exactly how much I had to learn; the only tool names I knew were hammer, drill, and wrench. I had no idea what most of the tools were even called, let alone how to use them. Everyone in the class had differing levels of experience and comfort using the tools, but we all learned the basics together from Ms Oropallo. As she explained each new tool to us, she made sure we felt comfortable while also understanding how to be safe using it.

The first project we did was small: the spoon project. The purpose of it was to start using basic tools like the table saw and sanders. I was excited for this project because it allowed us to design our own spoons and seemed like art.

The main part of our class this year is the playhouse project; an almost two-semester long project. This is by far the longest (and most rewarding) project we have taken on throughout high school. We work with the same two to three people in a group to design, build, and decorate playhouse for second graders.

At the beginning of our project we visited Vallecito Elementary School to ask second graders how they thought we should design our playhouses. Two juniors taught a group of ten second graders about sustainable building, biomimicry, and low energy buildings. We then asked them what we should include in our playhouses to make them fun. The answers we got were incredibly helpful. My group of second graders recommended a pool on the roof, hot tub, dog, and TV, Wii, and Playstation systems. However, once they realised that the electronics would use electricity and energy, they decided that they did not actually need them.

The next step for our playhouses was to visit salvage yards and hunt for things that we could use to decorate our playhouse. My group decided to get a couple boxes of CDs to create the effect of fish scales for the inside of our playhouse. We also got old corrugated roofing, hoping to use it for at least half of our roof to let in natural light. Lastly, we found tiles that were different shades of blue, and are going to create a mosaic if we have time.

So far, my group has built our playhouse structure: the basic four walls, a floor, and a roof. We have also installed our window. Since we started installing siding ater than some groups, there was only enough for us to put siding on two walls. This turned out to be a great opportunity for our playhouse because it made us look for more creative options to use. We ended up siding the third wall with redwood boards. Currently, my group and I are completing the front wall with pallet board.

Engineering so far has been a great experience and has made me develop useful skills that I will be able to carry into my future. The playhouse project has helped us all learn to adjust and work together in a group over a long period of time, as well as teaching us that creative solutions are everywhere. We have put over a semester of work into our playhouses, and it is great to see them take shape.


  1. I liked how you spent a lot of time describing our warehouse expedition. Those two “junk” yards have been one of the best experiences of the entire year for me; thank you for revisiting them!

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