By Emily Clark ‘21
Once again, the Technology and Education team is loading up the workshops this holiday season with wooden toys. After 18 years of the program, the Toys for Tots operation at the high school runs smoothly and efficiently, and everyone is welcome to help out.
The program started in 2000 when the Tech Department teachers adopted it from Millersville University and decided it would be fun to do with technology students at the high school. Because Millersville commonly made wooden airplanes, the first toy made at the high school was an airplane. Every year since, the toy design is based on a wooden toy made somewhere else or an online design that engineering students model into a toy.
Past years’ toys include cars, planes, and a waddling duck. One of Mr. Mike Berkeihiser favorite toys was “the grasshopper because it had a lot of moving parts and it’s a lot of fun to play with.” This year’s toy, a dog, is also modeled after another wooden toy. Mr. Berkeihiser usually collaborates with students to brainstorm ideas for the toy, and said “any student is welcome to be involved in designing the toy, but every once in a while we handpick someone who has outstanding skills or work ethic that we know we can count on to come through with a final product.”
This year, he saw a wooden dog for sale, gave the picture to junior Isabelle LeCloux in the PLTW Computer Integrated Manufacturing class, and tasked her with designing this year’s Toy for Tots. She said, “This year, the biggest challenge was modelling the tail of the dog. We went through a few different prototypes, and it was definitely a struggle, but we produced a great toy in the end.”
The design process begins in the spring so that materials can be ordered over the summer, and then the toys are made starting the first week of September.
In recent years, one hundred toys are made in Berkeihiser woodshop, sanded in Mr. Neil Linkmeyer’s room, and painted by Mr. Steve Ortega’s students or random good samaritans. The toy bodies were cut using machines in the engineering lab and the wooden ears were made with a laser cutter. Sanded and stained pieces are put together by student volunteers who attach the wheels and ears to complete the toys. The toys are then sent out to families in our community just in time for the holidays.
Any students and teachers interested can purchase and customize a toy with a name or saying for $15. There are also donation boxes around the school for new, unwrapped toys. This portion of the Toys for Tots program fluctuates in success; “some years we get 50 to 100 donations, and other years we get six” Berkeihiser said, but he hopes that this year, the donation boxes will prove successful.
The Toys for Tots program has evolved each year, gaining more efficiency and participation, but of course the program would not be where it is without a generous, annual allocation from the Parent Teacher Organization. PTO At Large member and former PTO Co-President Luci McClure said, “We fully support the program. When we were making the budget this year, we decided to increase [the allocation] to $1000 so that the kids had enough money to make more intricate toys… that would be a little more special.”
Berkeihiser also said this wonderful opportunity “gives [the students] a chance to apply what they’re learning in engineering class to a real-world project and also also gives them a chance to give something back to their community.”