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A house-proud class

By Joanne Viviano

Saturday, January 24, 2004

Students put in extra hours to work onbuilding their house.
YOUNGSTOWN -- When they started out, the plans called for a basic, three-bedroom starter home.
But this family had something else in mind.
How about two bedrooms with his-and-her closets in the master suite and adjoining bathroom with his-and-hers sinks?
They could agree on that. Still, they never will live in the modified home. It's much too small.
After all, their classroom could never accommodate a 1,446-square-foot house.
For Cardinal Mooney teacher Tony Roncone, the members of this family are his 16 advanced mechanical drawing students. And the group is building their house one-eighth the size it would be if built to scale.
On Wednesday, members of the class worked to attach roof trusses to the walls of their dream home.
What's involved
"There's a tremendous amount of planning and organizing," said Roncone, who has taught at Mooney for 44 years. "It's amazing what the kids do."
What they do is follow the same steps that they'd follow if their downsized house was eight times bigger.
They plotted out the plans and drew blueprints before making their ideas a reality. From there, they built a basement with a main beam and supports, a brick foundation, a floor, walls and the 42 trusses of the roof.
Walls were built to accommodate plumbing and drywall. The top portion of the roof trusses are thicker to withstand the elements.
"It's exactly the way a real house would be built," said David Kitt, a senior from New Springfield who hopes someday to work as an engineer.
Kitt and junior Noah Brak of Boardman are considered "contractors" over the project and its five subgroups. Kitt said leadership and teamwork were key.
"Without everybody working together, we'd never get this thing done," he said.
"It's very hands-on," added Brak, who's hoping to work as an architect. "This is like the real world, how it really is."
Students requested it
Roncone said this is the first year in the past 20 that he has taught the advanced nine-week class. Administrators added it as a selection per the students' request.
"The value, first of all, is the group effort and knowing their place in the group, and knowing that all the little pieces these subgroups have to do fit into the picture.
"And what you see here now is the fruits of it all."
The students have included a one-car garage, living room, kitchen, dining room, closets and two bathrooms -- and they made sure that the "her" closet was bigger than "his."
Roncone has had past classes build a garage on the Mooney campus, as well as building roll-top desks, entertainment centers, grandfather clocks, Lazy Susans, sailboats, canoes and chapels and remodeling areas of the school.
His students are potential architects and engineers; one hopes to build garages on weekends to help pay for college. The students say the course, which ends this week, has been fun.
Enjoying themselves
Most have worked after school hours to get the house done. Others ask Roncone if they can spend their open "mentor hour" in his classroom.
"I wish I could stay here all day," said Bill LaGuardia, a senior from Poland. "You learn so much in here."
As students attach trusses to the home's walls, Roncone wraps an arm around Bill's shoulders and says, "How about that, Chain Saw?"
Bill earned his "Chain Saw Billy" nickname after a measuring error meant that he cut lumber to the wrong size earlier in the term. He laughed when classmates made a sign deeming the band saw "off limits" to him.
"We learned a lot about team work and a lot of our own strengths and weaknesses," Bill said, admitting that he had some trouble with measuring in the beginning.
"But he's really cleaned up his act with the measuring," Roncone added with a proud smile. "There are a lot of plusses down here."