Proudly displaying their creation, left to right, Metal Fab students Zachary Phinney , Ben Scott, Shane McDonagh and John Leonard. Photo courtesy Brian Gearty
By Judy Bass
Smoking, as it pertains to cooking food, is defined as “the process of flavoring, browning, cooking, or preserving food by exposing it to smoke from burning or smoldering material, often wood.” You would be able to do all that with flair if you used a certain one-of-a-kind smoker entirely built by hand, piece by piece, by high school students. Not only is it functional, but it also happens to be a visual knockout.
“I’ve been watching this come together for some time now,” said Blue Hills Superintendent James P. Quaglia, “and at some critical point it went from becoming not just functional, but a work of art. Creations like this remind me that we need to push the envelope on an artistic side more often.”
With this beautifully crafted smoker in mind, Blue Hills Principal Jill M. Rossetti spoke of the superb technical training that all Blue Hills students receive. She said, “Our Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs produce students who, upon graduation with a high school diploma, can enter the workforce and/or go on to earn more certifications in their fields. Blue Hills provides high quality, hands-on vocational programs and academics to students so they can have a competitive advantage at work or careers. We prepare students for the lifestyles they dream about and the careers they love.”
The smoker was created with meticulous care by four juniors in the Metal Fabrication and Joining Technologies program at Blue Hills Regional Technical School in Canton and painted by a group of freshmen in the school’s Auto Collision Repair & Refinishing program.
The Metal Fabrication students were John Leonard (Dedham), Ben Scott (Braintree), Zachary Phinney (Holbrook) and Shane McDonagh (Braintree).
Ninth-graders Salma Abdelrahman (Braintree), Jasen DiLetizia (Canton), Kenneth Fernald (Braintree), James Graziano (Holbrook), Domenic Schiavo (Norwood) and Elizabeth Pierce (Holbrook) did the handsome paint job. Blue Hills Lead Auto Collision Repair & Refinishing instructor, Dwight Seaman, said, “The freshman Collision Repair and Refinishing class was able to assist Metal Fabrication in the completion of the tow-around grille/smoker. They used material not commonly used in Collision Repair. That material was grille heat paint. The prior knowledge they had with automotive refinishing made it easy to adjust to a different application. These are great jobs for the students. They can now look outside the box a little and don't think they can only work on vehicles. [Auto Collision instructor] Robert DeMarco did the hand pin-striping for its final touches."
It is a stunner, adorned with colorful, Western-style motifs on the barrel of the apparatus. There is also a trailer so it can be transported easily from place to place.
Although this unique item is not for sale, one of the students mentioned that Lead Metal Fabrication Teacher Brian Gearty said it would be priced at not less than a cool $3,500 if it were on the market.
The project took up most of the school year, the students said. They worked on it every week that they were in their vocational class. They were often pulled off the project to help with Freshman Exploratory. (At vocational high schools, students typically alternate from week to week between their academic classes and their vocational program.)
Jack Leonard said, “If we had less time to work [on any given day], we did the smaller stuff.” Tasks were meted out between them unceremoniously on a simple “you do this, you do that” basis, according to who was most skillful at a particular assignment. Ben and Shane did the trailer, while Zack and Jack worked on the smoker. Jack also constructed the firebox.
The dimensions and specifications came from a web site about how to build a smoker, the students explained. The smoker unit and firebox measure 62 ¼ inches. The barrel portion is 26 inches wide and the smoker stands 33 inches tall.
As of mid-June, only one test remained – actually using the smoker.
The students’ Metal Fabrication teachers were extremely impressed with what the four were able to accomplish. “They really knocked it out of the park on this one.” said instructor Matthew Siwik. “It’s our job to give them the basic tools and skills to think and create on their own. Like Leonardo da Vinci said, ‘Poor is the pupil who does not surpass his master.’ These students are on the right path. I’m very proud of them.”
“I have been an instructor here for 19 years,” said Mr. Gearty. “To see the dedication and teamwork that these four particular students demonstrated was astonishing. The quality of the product comes through; the attention to every detail shows. I know that each one of these students is proud of the work they have done, as they should be. Over the past three years, they have developed into skilled fabricators. It is a pleasure to teach students like Ben, Jack, Shane and Zack, who are eager to learn. They will be very successful in this trade and in life.”