IR students ‘save Christmas’ with handmade toys

Date Published: 
December 27, 2013

The assignment was basic: imagine Santa’s elves need help after a workshop fire. And so it happened that Indian River High School students fulfilled the real-life task of creating toys to donate to local children in need.

Coastal Point • R. Chris Clark: These homemade domino sets, created and donated by Indian River High School construction students, have been made to delight local children this Christmas.Coastal Point • R. Chris Clark: These homemade domino sets, created and donated by Indian River High School construction students, have been made to delight local children this Christmas.To meet that need, Allen Timmons’ construction class designed domino sets with handmade wooden boxes. Each lidded box must snugly hold 28 tiles and a folded set of instructions, but after that, the sky’s the limit. Some containers were tall, while others were long and flat.

The craftsmanship is anonymous, so the students don’t sign their gifts. However, they do put their own personal “touch” on the project, senior William Tyre said.

Junior Keegan Orhelein created a hinged lid “so kids can open and close it with no problem, but not lose the lid.”

Each wooden box was also engraved by laser beam. That’s the trickiest part, said Orhelein. Students create images on the computer, then determine the exact measurements to line up the lid and laser so the engraving is perfectly centered.

With tiny sparks snapping off the wood, the laser cuts side-to-side, like an inkjet printer, but burning away small bits of wood instead of laying down ink. Students then watched their design (usually “Dominoes” text or a small picture) take form.

The laser also cut the dominoes themselves. The class laid quarter-inch sheets of acrylic in the machine, which cut 1-by-2-inch dominoes and etched the game spots.

Like all projects, big or small, this one took some thought. For instance, each student created their box from a single wooden board.

“We lay out each of our pieces to try to minimize waste,” Harkness said.

Plans were hand-drawn, which Timmons said mirrors how most people would build projects in their own home.

This was just one of many service projects for IR’s construction students. Past classes have built storage cabinets for the school, musical-instrument storage units for John M. Clayton Elementary and doghouses for the local SPCA. With this project, not only did the students build their skills, but they also got to share their work with children in need.

“I also like to show the kids about giving back to the community, and they love it,” Timmons said of past projects.