Trades Program takes on Garage Project

The Trades Program dove into a garage project in the 2020-2021 school year.


Zane Berg

The Trades Program focuses a lot on working together. Students who took the class learned valuable skills to use later in life.

Zane Berg

The Atlantic High School Trades Program has taken on a pretty large project this semester. The project is building a garage for Dave Erickson, a school bus driver and chief of police. Erickson decided to help the Trades Program receive some first-hand experience. 

The project started in late February with Dexter Dodson, one of Atlantic’s shop teachers, planning and coming up with the idea to train and prepare his students for life’s next step. In early March, he sent out an email to the school district looking for a project. 

It all took off from there. A few days later, Erickson and his wife, Lory, replied, saying they would like to work with the Trades Program. The next week, after consulting with Erickson, the Architectural Drafting class began drafting a project for Erickson. 

Caroline Pellett, a student in the Architectural Drafting Program, drafted a rough drawing of the garage. The project was “pretty cut-and-dry,” according to Pellett. Everyone in the class was able to sketch up a simple draft in a day or two. The class didn’t get into engineering the electrical or plumbing systems, but they designed the walls and roof. Pellett also talked about how the individual drawings went. “The only things we really did differently among ourselves were the garage doors and where we placed it on the existing garage.” In order to draw the garage, the students used a program called Revit, which allowed them to present photo-realistic renderings of the garage to Erickson. 

A week later, the students had a finished design. Dodson presented the drawings to Erickson and the school board. With this plan, the Drafting Program sent it over to Akins Building Center, where they compiled all the materials needed for the project. It was also sent to Stamp Construction, who was able to make a pad for the concrete floor. This included making sure the area where the concrete was going to be poured was at a proper slope. Stamp Construction also packed the area’s dirt down for the Trades Program. Once that was complete, the work could begin, but the students had to learn how to properly work with concrete. 

Enter Henningsen Construction. They came out to the high school on April 15 and taught the Trades Program how to tie rebar together for a structure to support the concrete they would pour. A week later, with the help of Henningsen Construction, the Trades Program laid down rebar and poured concrete footings. Footings are structures that support walls and keep them from settling. Then, another week later, again with Henningsen Construction’s help, the class poured a concrete floor. 

Devin Wood, a student in the Trades Program, talked about the project. He called it “pretty physical, but we had lots of waiting for the concrete.” For him, the most exciting part was pouring the concrete, and he also thought it was the most fun task he had to do for the project. Wood also talked about the attitude needed for this type of work and how a good work ethic was a must. In the end, Wood thinks this class teaches very valuable lessons for life, not just construction skills. Work ethic, job experience, and how to get along with people are all important skills these students have learned this year. 

The Trades Program will continue working until the end of the school year. Mr. Dodson hopes the Trades Program will frame the walls, put the siding on, and shingle the roof before the students are let out to enjoy their summer vacation.

In the future, the Trades Program hopes to tackle a few more garages, moving onto a garage on Chestnut Street next year. Dodson said,

“The big picture is that we move onto a small house once we get a few garages under our belt.” Dodson hopes to make the small house project come alive in the next few years, and make it a year-long project for the Trades Program.

In the end, the Trades Program has started a new way of teaching students valuable life skills. The program also helps students find good jobs right out of high school by providing them job experience with employers who are nearly always willing to hire. At the very least, these students will enter the world with a good work ethic, more prepared for life.