GRIT-by Ava L-S

When I think of the engineering class of 2018 I think of GRIT. Throughout this project we were pushed to our physical and mental limits, and with each seemly impossible obstacles, we never allowed it to stop us in our tracks. We’ve put our blood,sweat, and tears into this project. We capitalized off of our strengths as a whole which consisted of endurance,drive and determination.With all of the hard work we’ve put into our DAP, we now had something we could leave behind as a memento to our high school engineering experience.  As we continue to move forward in our  futures we will never leave behind the memories and connections made from this experience. I am grateful to have these post to look back on and remind me of my time working on this DAP. With my last post I will write of my experience throughout our project.


I started off the year learning alongside my peers of  material selection and how crucial it is to consider a material properties,cost, and overall fit to the project. Without learning and researching the materials we wouldn’t have know Raw Cedar and Pressure treated Pine was the best fit for our finished designed plans. I wouldn’t have though of comparing outside wood to inside wood, because I had initially just assumed wood could work for all environments.  I also learned of elasticity and beam reflection which were so crucial when it came to understanding how most framing is done especially for making our  decks(joists  vs planks).  


From here I worked with my partner  Ryanna to first measure out the space we had to work and then from there assess  how we wanted the plan what we wanted the 11th and 12th grade courtyard to look like. We planned out our design using sketch up and Pinterest and presented our mind map along  our peers. Once everyone had presentations we selected different elements of each we wanted to incorporated in our final plans. Our design  contributed the idea of an outdoor classroom with seating facing the walls.

Once we had our design plans we as a whole moved towards completing our tool training :miter saw, hand saw, drills, drivers, etc.


I remember the day we started building, and  realization that our building area was going to be very difficult due to the significantly unlevel ground. I remember us coming together to look at ways to address how we were going to level out the ground in order to build.  We thought of digging deep  into the ground to make level post. However realistically speaking this would initial have us  wasting our very limited time to communicate with the city of Austin to see if there were any pipes below that could be harmed when digging,etc. This method was time consuming and was not a guarantee. From here we decided surface leveling was necessary. We ordered above surface materials and focused the first few days staking and string the area to marking the location of each deck.

I worked in maker studio which was an advantage to the DAP process because the class consisted of me(Ava), Ryanna, Kelsey, and Carmen. Having a small group allowed us to be trained and figure out tactics with Ms. Joe on how to build frames, from here we could  splitting off and teaching the rest of engineering students how to do frames and that way we could divide and conquer.

When the non maker studio class were working on making the deck frames we worked on the next step of leveling.  This required us to carry heavy concrete deck blocks from the fence(location they were dropped off) all the way back to sight. I worked with a group. I would lift the blocks and bring them the a rolling cart until there was no more surface to cover and then help them move the cart to the work sight. With all the trips the cart eventually gave out which resulted in caring the heavy blocks all the way to sight. Once the blocks were on sight we organized the materials needed to complete our first task the deck:concrete deck blocks, planks(as joists), miter saw, 4 by 4,a level, and miscellaneous.

With leveling we encountered some obstacles. We realized that measuring the distance in between the concrete blocks and the joists was not always as precise as we needed when filling in blocks. We also discovered that leveling each joist could not be done independently. Meaning once the first joist was level we needed to level out the next joist to the first one, starting on the edges and then work from there.Once we had made all joist level we needed more people to lift the frame up in order to make our deck. We had many engineering students stay after that Friday until 9 pm (1st late work day) to help lift frame and fill in planks to completed our first deck.

We learned  we had forgotten to put in a internal plank flush with the frame on both sides of our first deck which  resulted in us taking it apart and remaking it. While some students with Ms. Joe to fix the first deck, I  worked on teaching a handful of engineering kids how to level.  I also taught shared with them my observations on how using the measuring tap was not always the most efficient when measuring the fill in piece between the joist and the concrete block. I found if we used inexact pieces we were able to use these pieces in a form of combination to estimate the next block’s dimensions.For example by stacking to 2 small cut cubes on top of each other and putting that under the joist was sometimes the right measurement. Then I could now cut the proper dimension. After trying out many combinations we soon began coming to a close This new method I was using made leveling go at a faster rate.  Even though I was now able to go at a faster rate I still hit walls when leveling.  Meaning when you level the piece you fill in has to be very preciseness, as shown with me holding 3 blocks, the exact filler in piece level is highly sensitive, making for long hours.

However the deck I was work on with this group and had gotten half way through leveling  by the end of class. However when staying for my 2nd Friday  work day we were told we needed to move our decks location because it blocked the maintenance path. Once I moved this deck  to its new area me and a different group began re-leveling. Although it was hard starting over we were able to work faster then before because we already had perfected a perfected method of leveling.  I finished leveling this deck the following week in class. Once all our joist were in place we we’re now able to lift our frame. 

The next class I  worked with a group to unpackage  heavy  flagstones and place them to make a path to the decks in process. After this was completed after a class or two I started with a group to level out the flagstones. This required for us to  filled up two wheel barrels(had to fix) one with sand and the other with grant. Then we brought over the wheel barrows to the beginning of the flag stone set path.I worked as a lifter of the flagstone while the others put down the right mixture leveling agents.I would move three flagstones and work on something else then come back flip them back into pace one the proper mixture was put down. 

When I wasn’t lift up the flag stones I was working with the bench decks to figure out how we were going to incorporate the benches into the deck design. We realized we couldn’t put down our planks like the first deck until our benches were put in place. This required us to try and level the benches like we did the joists within the frame by going to grab more concrete blocks. We learned however on the third  Friday I stayed late that  the  benches would need to be lifted and leveled to the 3 walls of the frame, from here they were to be clamped and drilled through to be anchored to the frame.

When I came back to class after the weekend I was excited to see when entering the gate many of the benches had been put up, however I later learned the bench’s  hadn’t been put up properly. The benches had been put up by visitors from google who were allowed to work with us on decks however they did not follow directions which put us behind scheduled having to take apart and start over.

I spent this class day fixing messed up benches.  I worked with a group to level out the benches, clamp them in place and drill and anchor. This process took time due to the drilling distance being very deep which caused for the drill extension to come off in the wood which required more time to work towards getting it out and starting again. After a few classes we were able to put down our planks to finally finish our bench decks.Then the next class I worked in a group to make a table for the deck. 

Once we’d completed a normal deck, two bench decks with tables, and flagstone path I along with my peers had though we’d put leveling behind us, and we were oh so wrong.

We moved towards creating an entirely new deck with a completely new method of leveling in order to connect both bench decks. Initially the space between the two bench decks had been designated for making a plain deck however leveling out this area with the same method as any deck type was impossible. We moved towards brainstorming new ways to level and deciding to use the remainder of the grant and larger rubble from leveling the flagstone as well as any wooden scrapes. This deck was the most physically exhausting of all of the decks due to the quantity of heavy material we had to use to fill a pit the size of a deck. The decks framing was done by connecting the first bench deck with the second and then placing around the square frame a boarder to in case the “sand” for our “sandbox”.   Then we made spots for the wood posts in the  grant and rubble mixture organized in rows and columns. In order to complete this deck by deadline many of us sacrificed class time to work on reviews to finish the deck.

While more people began working on the sand deck I started working on yet another project of setting up a hammock. Me and this newly established group tried building multiple hammock stand structures, however none of them were successful. I worked with Ms.Joe in Makers studio and we  decided the hammock would need to be moved to be by the tree by the first deck. We attached the hammock to the tree and to a post I’d attached to the deck. Next class I helped dig a 30 inch hole to put in the stake for the hammock, because it couldn’t be attached where we’d put it on the deck.

I came early on the day we presented and saw that the group that had stayed late had finished the sand deck, made a new shade cover for the bench deck(Pergola),

put up the Ann Richards Mural, and finished the hammock. I worked that morning to clean up the work site, I also worked to set up iPad with presentation, which was screenshotted due to no outdoor WiFi.

Everyone was prepared to talk on our subject, we all know our subjects as if they were are part of us because in many ways they were. I am so proud of what we’ve accomplished and this DAP has proven the phrase that “The hardest things in life are the most worthwhile”. I will use all I’ve learned this year . 






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