A project spearheaded by Auburn High School career technical education teacher Jessica Bowlin has already earned the school's Building Construction program state recognition and garnered much support from the local community — all before it has even been completed.
While the success of this particular project could be measured in dollars earned and knowledge learned, the project itself is measured in feet — 21 feet long by 8½ feet wide, to be exact. The project is a tiny house, and Bowlin's Building Construction students are the only in the state to be working on one as a classroom project.
Once built, the home will be sold to whomever "gives the right price," said Bowlin, an Auburn University graduate who is in her third year of teaching at Auburn High.
She pitched the tiny house project to the Auburn City Schools administration at the Central Office after her first year of leading the Building Construction program — during which her students made a shed that currently sits in the backyard of its buyer, a parent of one of the students.
She figured administration thought she was "a little crazy" pitching such a big idea as a first-year teacher, but ACS hopped on board to back it.
"Central Office seemed to like it and provided the funds for it," Bowlin said. "(Tiny homes) are such a big trend right now ... I thought it'd be cool to build something we could sell to fund the next project."
Already, the tiny house has earned the AHS Building Construction program a first-place award for best "Live Work Product" at the 2019 Alabama Association for Career Technical Education conference.
The home will be completed in October and go on sale shortly after. Money acquired through the deal will fund the next tiny home — a project for future students.
Community members and potential buyers will have the opportunity to view the finished house at a ribbon cutting on Oct. 29 at 4:30 p.m. in front of the Building Construction classroom, which is located around the back of the high school. Refreshments will be served by AHS students in the Hospitality and Tourism career tech program, led by Chef John Everson.
Auburn residents will also have a chance for a sneak peek of the home prior to the ribbon cutting, when it is featured in the AHS Homecoming Parade event, ROAR on the Corner on Sept. 26. The event will begin at 5 p.m. in downtown Auburn, and the parade will start rolling at 5:30.
The program has attracted students who are interested in building science and construction. These students — amounting to about 100 spread over two semesters — started working on the tiny house in October 2018, framing the house through the low temperatures of winter and continuing to build in the sweltering heat of the summer months.
There are students like senior Sam Hinson, whose entire family is involved in the construction industry through interior design, industrial design and architecture.
"I've kind of found I like construction a lot," he said, adding that the class is a change of pace from regular classes. "You go from such a mind-draining class to one where you're working with power tools to build stuff."
Hinson said he is now looking into building construction programs at colleges across South.
Senior Tatum Benefield was introduced to construction through his father, but admits he didn't learn any specifics about the field until taking Bowlin's class.
"I just think it's good to have these memories of it, but also lessons you’ve learned and skills you’ve acquired," he said. "And, I took the framing and finishing courses last year, so throughout that, I've sort of enjoyed framing and building the skeleton of the house."
Then there are students like senior Edgar Martinez, who has worked on construction sites with his father, specifically doing masonry work. Martinez, who worked on the house the previous school year, said he always looked forward to the class and particularly enjoyed experiencing all the students come together to accomplish a goal.
"Just working with everyone in the class was fun, trying to figure things out," he said. "Everybody was kind of in their own world, doing different parts of the house, and then we all would get together and figure things out ... It's something new to try to build an entire house."
Bowlin echoed this sentiment.
"The most fun part is actually seeing diverse groups of students come together and work together," she said, adding that for the most part students have done all the work on the house after receiving instruction. "After I show them once, they kind of take it and run with it."
One of the students instrumental to the start of the tiny house project was Mark Daniel, who died in a car accident the week before school started in August. Daniel worked on the house last year and kept everyone in good spirits, Bowlin said. He signed his name on the trailer, along with the rest of his class, before framing went up on top of it.
"The random stuff he would do and the things he was able to do that none of us would be able to do — he was a really good kid," Bowlin said, laughing when she remembered a day a wasp got in the workshop and Daniel made it his task to defend his classmates against it.
"He was the goofball, and when he had to be professional and work, he did," Bowlin said. "He's still very well present every day. We talk about him at least once a week. He was a big component of the beginning of his process for sure."
Outside of all the hands-on experience the Building Construction program offers students, they also receive NCCER Core certification, an industry-recognized credential. Students go through written and performance testing and are taught a variety of skills, from equipment and job site safety to the ability to analyze drawings and specs, among many other things.
The students also learn basic career skills, like resume writing, communication skills and interview skills.
The Building Construction program is one of 16 career technical courses offered at Auburn High.