MiLL students build an entire house
By Katie Stearns

Students who take the first two years of classes at The MiLL are taught the curriculum that was written by Dean Mattson. It is a pretty regimented program; Industry partners have helped design what they want students to learn, including WCA certification. According to the State of Colorado (and most states in the U.S.) Career Technical Education guidelines; two years is all a student needs to be a “program completer.” Students can continue to take classes at The MiLL for all four years of high school. If the first two years are so regimented, what do the other two years look like?

Third year students get a little more creativity in their project. Students build a six-drawer tool chest on stand and are able to build the tools to put in their tool chest. The chest itself is fairly standard; individuals are able to customize the stand by embellishing it on the CNC machines, changing the shape of the stretchers, or adding inlay work. All of their tool handles are turned in the MiLL’s Rikon and EasyWood Tools lathe shop and custom designed by each student.

During the students’ fourth year they almost exclusively work on the high technology equipment in the program. Industry partner Stiles Machinery placed a Weeke Vantech 480, Weeke Optimat ABD 050, and a Brandt edgebander at the MiLL. The advanced students have been dedicated to the MiLL and made the decision to take classes all four years; these students get freedom in a structured environment. This year one of the biggest projects the advanced students at The MiLL get to be a part of is building an entire house.

MiLL construction students along with industry professionals are framing the house, running the electrical, plumbing and HVAC for the house. MiLL cabinet manufacturing students are designing, building, and installing the cabinetry and trim work for the house.

Cabinet manufacturing students, along with their instructor Patrick White, are responsible for reading the drawings, designing the kitchen, bathroom, built-in cabinets and milling all of trim work. All of the design work is being done with another MiLL industry partner, Cabinet Vision software. The kitchen for the house has a couple of angled half-walls and the ceiling is vaulted, creating design challenges and opportunities for students to problem solve issues as they arise.

The sheet goods cut list will be exported and cut on the Vantech 480. The Optimat ABD 050 will be doing the job of drilling and doweling the horizontal cabinet parts. Solid wood cut lists will be taken care of in the manufacturing lab for face frames, crown molding and trim. Face frames will be assembled with pocket-holes, using the Kreg DK1100 FP. Door rails and stiles will be milled with a Unique door machine. All of the soft close door and drawer hardware has been donated by Blum USA.

Remaining supply costs for the first MiLL House have been generously taken care of by the Colorado Springs Home Builders Association through a slight upcharge in permit fees. Contractors have a choice to “round up” their permit fees with the balance going to “The MiLL House build.” The first house will be sold and the proceeds from the sale will be used to build next year’s house, creating a sustainable project for students to build year after year.

Patrick White, MiLL CNC instructor, will guide the students installing all the cabinetry and trim work in the home. White has worked in the industry most of his working life, first at a lumberyard and then later on the manufacturing floor and as an engineer for several cabinet companies on the east coast. Currently, White owns and operates Woodwork Concepts, specializing in CAD drawings for projects all over the country.

Instructor Mike Landis is leading the advanced construction classes at The MiLL. His students are currently framing the exterior walls of the house. During the summer build program, students laid the floor joists and sub-floor in the MiLL parking lot on elevated cribbing.  Second year Construction classes, lead by instructor Brandon Martinez, will be running the plumbing and electrical systems for the house as part of their pre-apprenticeship training. Several local companies have pledged products and services toward building the first MiLL house.

Instructors anticipate this project being a great experience, all of the students will be able to see a house built from the ground up, in one school year. Not many high school students can add that to a resume.


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