EDITOR DANIEL CLIFTON
MARBLE FALLS — Shawn Reed’s upper-level building trade students hope to sell their end-of-course exam. Of course, Reed knows about it, and he wants the same thing.
It isn’t actually an exam; it’s a tiny house: an 8½-foot-by-20-foot Tumbleweed Tiny House Co. Elm model built on a custom O’Connor-brand trailer.
“We started it December of 2016, maybe late November,” said Marble Falls High School senior Reynaldo Suarez, one of the students who’s been on the project since the beginning.
He and fellow senior Raul Maldonado are proud of the work they and the other 48 or so students have put into the project.
“It feels good to do something like this,” Maldonado said. “It gives me a lot of confidence as I go out into (the workforce).”
The building trades students are hammering out the final details of the project before the Marble Falls Independent School District holds an online auction for the home. Pending completion, the auction should be open for seven days starting June 1. The minimum bid is $34,900, which covers the costs of materials. Any additional proceeds flow back into the school’s Career and Technology Education program. The model starts at $72,950 on the company’s website.
Reed said the construction of the tiny house allowed students to demonstrate all the skills they’ve learned under one roof, so to speak.
“They get to see how everything fits together instead of just building a wall by itself,” he said. “They learn a lot about attention to detail and how it all comes together. They get all of the components of the building trades.”
“It’s been a good project to build because you do the electrical, the plumbing, and all those things that go into a house,” he said.
Maldonado said attention to detail was vital to completing the project.
“If we were off in the small details, we had to take it apart and do it over again,” he said.
Bruce Peckover, MFISD’s director of Career and Technology Education, said the tiny house threw some other challenges at the students, including the construction of a dormer, a structure with windows or other useable space projecting out of a pitched roof. It meant more measurements and calculations.
“There’s a lot of math and engineering the kids had to use to build this,” Peckover added.
Every part of the project was a learning experience for the students, Reed said.
“I’d have them look at a part of it and ask something like, ‘How much of that (material) do you think we need?’ And they’d have to figure it out,” he said. “Sure, we had some idea from the plans, but I still wanted them to try and figure it out. I’ve taken them to the hardware store to get things, and they’d ask questions about other things they’d see.”
The students devised ways to create more storage — a valuable commodity in a tiny house. They built the loft large enough to hold a queen-size mattress. The house has engineered hardwood floors, a walnut butcher block countertop, a full-size shower and toilet, a two-burner induction range, a microwave, a refrigerator, a sink, and more.
“Another thing is this is one hundred percent student-built,” Peckover said. “Sometimes, you have some projects where students work alongside professionals or watch them, but this was all built by the students.”
They did get some expert advice from Reed, a certified construction trades teacher, as well as from members of the Highland Lakes Builders Association. City of Marble Falls building inspectors also stopped by to check on the project, offering insight on what they look for and what the city requires in a home.
“I think that’s another great thing about this project … the community support the students got,” Peckover said.
The professionals also took note of the skills the students were developing, expressing interest in many of them as future employees, Peckover noted.
Suarez and Maldonado believe the tiny house project as well as the high school construction trades and welding program have provided them the opportunity to develop skills that will take them into the construction industry. Suarez plans to join his family business, Suarez Masonry, after graduation though his goals go beyond that.
“I’ll keep working in construction, and, eventually, I want to start my own business as a builder,” he said.
Peckover said the students hope to display the tiny house during Marble Falls High School’s commencement ceremony, which is 8 p.m. Friday, June 1, at Mustang Stadium, 2101 Mustang Drive. Then, they want to show it around town during the seven days of the online auction.
For more on the house and upcoming auction, go to the Marble Falls High School CTE webpage.
“It’s been tough, challenging at times, yeah,” Maldonado said about the project, “but I’ve learned a lot.”