Building careers: Trade students begin work on Tiny Home

HARLINGEN — Ana Serrano is looking forward to doing the electrical wiring for the new “Tiny Home.”

“I am with the electrical technology class and we’re just going to be doing the wiring and possibly the plumbing to this ‘Tiny Home’ and I’m pretty excited about it,” said Ana, 17, a senior.

She and her fellow trade students gathered Wednesday for a groundbreaking ceremony at Harlingen High School South for the new home being constructed on a trailer. Students gathered around a large black trailer bearing illustrations of the home they planned to build.

The Tiny Home is the latest project funded by the Elon Musk Foundation. The Foundation has already funded the installation of state-of-the-art welding and robotics equipment. More projects are planned in the near future with the funds.

Teachers, administrators and school board members spoke with great excitement about the project being a collaborative effort by numerous trade classes in the Career Technology Education Department.

“A tiny home is a manufactured home that we build from scratch,” said Raul Alvarez, director of career and technology education for the Harlingen school district.

“It exists on the top of a trailer,” he said. “It’s different from a traveling trailer in that this is permanent. It will be a permanent fixture on the trailer.”

The trailer and home, he said, can be parked on someone’s property and residents can move in and set up house. He spoke in depth about the trades involved in the project. Carpentry and electrical are just the beginning.

“Those two are just within the apprenticeship academy,” Alvarez said. “We are also involving the business academy because we have our students in the business, finance and marketing pathways working on marketing it.”

Superintendent Alicia Noyola congratulated the students for coming together to collaborate on the project.

“This is an opportunity to help you come together to build a project, a project that’s all yours, that you can take pride in,” Noyola said. “We’re giving you the experience of what it feels like to work with others toward a common project.”

Harlingen school district Superintendent Alicia Noyola speaks to the trades students who will begin work on the Tiny Home. (Travis M. Whitehead/Valley Morning Star)

Alvarez explained in further detail how trade students will learn about collaboration while building the tiny home.

“Our electricians are learning how to be electricians,” Alvarez said. “And so the electrical kids learn, they know how to do this, but how do you work with a plumber? How do you work with the HVAC person? How do you work with a business and marketing person?”

As Alvarez explained it, these separate pieces appear to be the building blocks toward cooperative learning.

“Instead of our kids working in silos in the academies, they’re learning to work cooperatively with other academies so that way they can get ready for what’s going to occur when they go out there in the real world,” Alvarez said. “They are going to be expected to work together.”

The kids were equally excited about the venture.

“I’m going to be doing the carpentry, the framing,” said Jose Huerta, 18, a senior.

“I’m very excited,” he added. “It’s going to be a great experience. I’m going to have a good time. I am going to learn from it.”

This is the biggest project Ana Serrano has ever worked on.

“I’ve been in this program for about two years,” she said, “And in my two years in this electrical class we’ve only done small projects.”

Students will work on the project for the remainder of the school year. Work will continue through the summer and be completed sometime next school year. Alvarez said the CTE plans to do one Tiny Home a year.

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