Sweat permeated the air, leaving the surrounding area smelling like an industrial wasteland, but the students working on the KISD Center for Advanced Learning (KCAL) Skoolie loved it being that way. The “Skoolie” is a mobile home, similar to an RV, but created from an old school bus.
Matt Quattlebaum, the supervisor of this project, started on the Skoolie with students from KCAL’s Civil Engineering and Principles of Architecture program at the beginning of the summer of 2019. The bus was donated two years ago and was left in the parking lot since. Originally the plan was to turn the bus into a mobile classroom, but the layout plans instead turned out to be a mobile home after KISD bought the CTE trailer.
“A skoolie is essentially a tiny home on wheels built out of a bus,” Quattlebuam said.
Quattlebaum had heard of plans of throwing the bus away and came up with the idea to turn the bus into a RV-esque home. They used the leftover funds from the engineering budget and used it to buy the basic supplies to jumpstart the project. Once the new budget for the engineering department was available, they were given more money to continue working.
“I have gotten to help students with little or no tool experience find confidence in their ability to create things that they have never tried,” Quattlebaum said.
Quattlebaum was not used to not being the lead of this sort of project; however, he adapted with the help of his students and their dedication to the project. Instead, the KCAL students are manning the project.
“One of my favorite things about this project is that I have had to step back and be a resource rather than the one directing all of the work,” Quattlebaum said.
The team of students started by removing the bus seats, floors, and decals. The students also used tools to grind down the rust and installed insulation. As more students joined the project, classmates taught each other on how to use saws, heat guns, and nail guns to build and patch up the floors. Through this, students were able to experience real life situations that they’ll be able to apply in life.
“I want to do something in the engineering field, so this project gives me insight to a larger scale project than what we’ve done in the classroom, and I think that is something that will be very helpful in the future,” sophomore Johnathan Duhon said.
The project has evolved and more students from other classes and backgrounds have joined. The project has been a wonder to work on for students, and even more of a wonder for the family that may live in the Skoolie in the future. Several students were able to experience and gain skills that would help them in the future.
“I know, whenever I grow older, I have a family or something like that, I’ll be able to help them,” sophomore, Christopher Webb said.
Towards the beginning of the project, a TikTok account was created by a member of the Skoolie workforce, sophomore Hannah Ongmanchi. The account was dedicated to documenting the progress of the bus, and quickly went viral. Currently, it resides at 968,000 followers. They then opened an Instagram account for the Skoolie, which hit around 50,000 followers within the last two weeks. Due to this internet fame, they’ve secured a paint sponsorship.
“Growing our audience on platforms like Tik Tok and Instagram has been such a journey,” Ongmanchi said. “It’s incredible to see how many people are interested to follow us throughout a project like this.”
The project is aiming to be finished within the next year and a half, with the total time to completion for around two years. Although students may have joined for different reasons and gained different experiences, they all want to give back to the community in some way by donating the bus. Students gained friendships and experiences that they’ll be able to use for forever.
”Even though everyone working on the bus comes from separate schools and organizations, the group has really come close together as a team and family,” Ongmanchi said.