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!


  1. This was a very well written blog Chris good job! I can relate to feeling a litte intimidated by the tools in the beginning but I eventually got over that and used them. The title was so relateable for such a long time for me. I would always tell my team members that I would cut whatever they measured but now I know how to measure so I can do it myself.

  2. I totally agree that the tools and machinery were a little intimidating at the beginning, but look at us now! We’ve come such a long way and I’m so glad you’re enjoying yourself this year!

  3. How typical of you to rave on how amazing your partners are! I really loved this Chris, I really agree with what you said about engineering being one of the selling points of MSEL – I really loved it during the shadow too. Your post is full of fun little asides, and I love the one where you distinguish nails from screws – a mistake that even the best of us make!

  4. Awe Chris I love hearing how you connect with the tools, because I subconsciously feel the same way too hahah. Your coop looks great and I’m really impressed with it! Thank you for making me chuckle as I read this, it was sweet and personal.

  5. i remember how cool it was to shadow this class too! it was all i was looking forward to. And yeah the whole 2x4s not being actual 2x4s is confusing haha. The pictures are so cute! i can’t wait to see what your coop looks like in the end!

  6. I totally forgot about shadowing!! haha still confused about all the measuring and names, but those quizzes certainly help. I also love Madeline and Maya, your so lucky to be working with them. And I can see how comfortable you are with the tools now!

  7. Such a good blog Chris!! I agree that tools are very scary at first but we learned how to work with them which made it a lot better. I can’t wait to see how your chicken coop turns out.

  8. Great blog Chris! I share the same feelings about all the tools and I love the way you described them! I also loved how you talked so highly of your group and went into detail about the work you’ve completed. Nice job!!

  9. I agree those tools were pretty scary at first and I loved the way you wrote, it was beautiful and truly demonstrated eloquence. Your group is looking great as well as your coop. Can’t wait to see the finished product!

  10. The table saw still scares me and I don’t understand how Ms. O doesn’t chop her hand off when she uses it. Making friends with all the tools was a challenge but we’ve all come so far now!

  11. Chris I know exactly what you mean about the tools being so frightening at first I was terrified! I loved how you referenced answers from our quizzz in your blog. I still don’t understand half of those questions.

  12. Awe Chris, the way you described the tools was so unique, I’d never thought of the band saw as a singer! Your creative personifying of everyday items is amazing, and it really sheds an entirely new and distinct light on matters of daily life. Wonderful blog!!

  13. Love the blog Chris! I agree that the tools were very intimidating as first, but each day we are conquering our fears and getting better engineers everyday. I totally agree that Ms.O is absolutely amazing, and such an inspiration. #buildlikemso Cant wait to see your guys finish coop!

  14. I really liked your blog Chris! You are such a great person to have in our group!!!! I think that it definitely was kind of weird/scary using the tools at first, but that know it’s easier and even kind of fun. I also think its weird too that there are like 8 different names for each tool and the one that makes the most sense isn’t one of the names!

  15. Honestly, I am still intimidated by the tools.. but I think, like you said, it must be good to have to learn to work with them. I loved the whole blog and I think that your take on the experience in general is very well put. I also agree that Ms. O is the best ever and totally inspiring!

  16. Chris I loved your blog! I definitely agree with you that at first the tools were intimidating at first, but we learned to work with them. I am so happy that we are in the same group and that we get to watch each other grow throughout the class. 🙂

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.