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Competition Builds Skills, Confidence For Students
compete 1
Riverbank High School student Melany Mejia, center, took a moment for a photo op with farmers Joaquin Ameral and his son Ryan as they picked up their owl box. VIRGINIA STILL/THE NEWS
RHS Skills Team
The RHS Building and Construction team built owl boxes for the 2021 Design and Build Competition. VIRGINIA STILL/THE NEWS

The Building and Construction class at Riverbank High School recently put their skills to the test for the 2021 Design Build Competition. The team of students led by Instructor Cory Casteel constructed owl boxes for the ‘Kitchen Sink’ category in the competition.

Casteel has attempted to keep the students engaged through virtual learning as the pandemic has dictated for most of the school year however, he said the Building and Construction class seems to be better served with an in-person, hands-on type of instruction. He said that was evident, as he witnessed students being more invested in the class in the short time since they have returned to the campus.

“It is a relief,” stated Casteel about having the students back in class. “It was hard to do it online. It was hard to keep them engaged. Some of them were apprehensive about doing the work at home and some did not have a place to work at home. It is much easier to teach kids here.”

Earlier this year the Valley Builders Exchange, Inc. (VBE) donated buckets of tools to RHS for future competitions. McGuire and Hester, an engineering and design company, sponsored the students and provided the funds for the materials for the recent competition.

“They are very nice and they learned a lot in the process of making the first one versus making the last ones,” remarked Casteel about the boxes produced by the students. “They learned some short cuts and solved some problems. They did a really nice job.”

The students were allowed to create their own structures for the competition that were then judged on their craftsmanship. They were encouraged to build something with purpose that may be of use to someone in the community.

RHS students did just that as they built barn owl boxes, screech owl boxes, bat houses, and wood duck boxes. In late April they had a few farmers visit the school to pick up their boxes that will be placed on their property.

Joaquin Ameral and his son Ryan were pleased with the owl box that they received that was constructed by the team. RHS student Melany Mejia put on a nice shiny coat of paint that made the owl box a little different than the others. The father and son farm almonds in Denair.

“One challenge was making sure it was straight enough so the nails went in perfectly,” said Mejia. “It feels really good especially since mine is slightly shiny because of the finish. He (Ameral) said he liked it and he is hoping that the owls like it too.”

Phil Wagner from Denair picked up two boxes from the students to place on his property and at the Gemperle Farm orchards.

“We will just put them up there and they do their thing,” stated Wagner about the owl boxes. “They did a good job. It is very nice and sturdy.”

The students spent time after school to complete the boxes and logged a total of 90 hours. Some of the students shared that they were not very difficult to build and for most this was the first time that they had built something like it.

“It was simple,” said Jesus Tovar. “It turned out nice. It was better than expected.”

Freshman Harveer Aulakh has a special role of DSP (Designated Safety Person). He has the responsibility of making sure that all the students are working safely by recognizing safety hazards and promptly correcting them. For example Aulakh shared that if someone has a broken tape measure or pencil he would replace it and if there was a tripping hazard he would remove it.

“It was amazing,” noted Aulakh about the construction of the owl boxes. “It was really fun. I got to learn how to use power tools that I wouldn’t be able to use even if I was at home or anywhere. So I was excited to use those things. I got more work experience that will help towards my career as well.”

RHS Science Teacher Alice Paulson grabbed two owl boxes and two wood duck boxes for her property in Washington.

“There are two parts, the cutting and the sanding,” added Alejandro Guzman about his favorite part of the build. “It feels good because they like it (owl box). I think we did good in the competition.”

The team consists of William Kendrick, Jose Ortega, Guzman, Tovar, Mejia, Samara Wilkerson, Aulakh, Bryan Hernandez, Luis Martinez, Christian Castro, Kelvin Pinto, Jerry Martinez, and Giovanny Guzman.

Skills Boxes
Photo By Virginia Still
RHS Boxes
Photo By Virginia Still
RHS Boxes
Photo By Virginia Still