I remember when I shadowed the MarinSEL program, about three years ago. I sat in a chair for the majority of that day in a class I do not remember, listening to a lecture I cannot recall, while my mind wandered about what it must be like to be a “highschooler.” But when I got to the Engineering class at the end, I was blown away. There were people cutting things and drilling things and using cool looking tools that I could not name or even recognize. So, when I finally became a junior, I was ecstatic.
The first day was probably the toughest of them so far because that was the day Ms. Oropallo introduced us to the machinery and all its might. That doesn’t sound too bad at first, but when you are standing next to a roaring band saw or a hissing drill press or any of the other metal beasts, you begin to sing a different tune. Every one of them spins, twists, or propels some sort of metal blade at a terrifyingly high speed. It took me a little while to trust these tools, and it began with a spoon. We were given a block or wood, and all the tools we could possibly want and received instruction to design and create a kitchen spoon. This is how I got to know the band saw. It was loud and intimidating at first, but when you feed a piece of wood through the thin metallic ribbon, it becomes a playful artist, separating excess wood from what is to become a masterpiece, almost as if by its own volition. And the noise that was once a piercing roar becomes a voice; a wavering monologue of elegant, sophisticated prose. Perhaps I made a friend that day, perhaps it was always just a tool.
Speaking of friends and tools, I am currently a few months into a chicken coop building project with Maya and Madeline, who are pretty amazing partners, and it is looking pretty good so far. We screwed the framework together using an adorably feisty little device called an impact driver, an embarrassingly large amount of screws – not nails (there is a difference, I promise) – and a bunch of 2×4’s – which are not even 2 inches by 4 inches they are 1.5 x 3.5, which is really confusing and unnecessary, but I won’t get into that. Then we had to warp the whole thing in a paper-like material called Tyvek or homewrap, but not housewrap (I don’t know why). The siding was done by cutting large piece of wood into thinner pieces of wood using a large machine with a circular blade called a table saw and then shortening those pieces to with another circular blade on a different machine called a chop saw. Actually, Ms. Oropallo is the one who usually uses the table saw because it requires a certain finesse that takes time to perfect, although I have been using it more lately. We are now working on our roof, we have to create a frame, add rafters, plywood and shingles… I think, we’ll get there.
So yeah the class is pretty great, but I just want to point out that Ms. Oropallo is truly an inspiring individual. She is one of the most genuine people you can meet and I sincerely mean and appreciate that. Thank you Ms. O!