Derrik Kenney and Evan Drinkwater, both 17, have spent the last couple of months creating four hexagonal picnic tables as part of the building construction program at Waldo County Technical Center.

Kenney, a senior at Belfast Community Outreach Program and Education in Belfast, and Drinkwater, a senior at Belfast Area High School, are using the skills they’ve learned in Drew Fales’ class this year to help enhance the Searsport Elementary School after school program. The after school program was recently awarded a $500 mini-grant, Fales said, and the money was used to purchase the materials the students needed to construct the tables.

“They built one as an experiment to begin with,” said Fales of his students. “It’s been a good involved project where they’ve been able to do some nice finish work.”

Measuring and cutting each piece of lumber, assembling each table from the top down – Kenney said he and Drinkwater constructed each table as it lay upside down, as they used the tabletop as a base to support the construction of the legs and bracing for the benches.

Both of the first-year students say the job seemed rather daunting at first, but as the two switched off on the various jobs that needed to be done, each table was completed in shorter increments of time.

“The first one took a while,” said Drinkwater. “But the last one took us maybe a week and a half.”

Kenney and Drinkwater both say they grew up around carpentry, and have enjoyed the experience of assembling the tables, especially knowing they will be part of a program that will help younger students learn the value of an outdoor classroom setting.

Kenney and Drinkwater are no strangers to using their skills to help younger children. Last winter, their building construction class helped fifth graders from Searsport Elementary School to make their own toolboxes.

“We even put a name-tag on them for them,” said Drinkwater.

Fales said having the use of the grant money to cover costs offers his students more opportunities to be involved in various projects without having to put a dent in his own budget.

“Rather than use our own money, we use that grant money and the students here are getting some really good skills,” said Fales.

Skills, Fales said, could help his students make money. He has built picnic tables, chairs, and other items that his friends and neighbors had ordered over the years.

“They learn skills here they can sell,” said Fales. “And if you do nice work, people will buy it.”

Kenney said, for example, the materials for one of the picnic tables he and Drinkwater build cost about $170, but as a finished product, the tables could sell for at least twice that amount.

“You can double your money as long as you’re willing to put in the work,” said Kenney.

And the picnic tables are not the only community project under construction — the students are also putting the finishing touches on a gazebo that is destined for the Unity Early Childhood Center, as well as a set of seven outdoor storage buildings, which Fales said are made-to-order each year.

It sounds like a tall order, but it’s work that Fales said comes easier as each student gets better at the craft over time.

“It’s all about figuring it out, and trying to be consistent with the quality,” said Fales.

Just down the hall in the conference room that neighbors the WCTC Café, a trio of students from Jon Morrison’s computer networking class are putting the finishing touches on a presentation the youths are working on as part of the course’s widget program.

Belfast Area high School senior Timothy Rose, 17, his classmate, 19-year-old Robert Leblanc and junior Christian Hodgdon, 16, stood at the head of the room as they gave a PowerPoint presentation for their virtual networking company, Glass Road Inc.

“We’ve built a network from the ground up for an imaginary company,” said Rose.

As part of the students’ presentation, Morrison said the youths were to respond to a request for quotes from the imaginary company, quotes that include every detail from how much wiring will be needed to what they will use to build the server and how they will establish wireless access for the imaginary business.

“We estimate what it will cost for us to install everything, plus a 10 percent profit margin,” explained Rose.

Morrison said each working group in his class must also draft a letter aimed at attracting business from companies that may potentially obtain the services of Glass Road Inc. in the future.

“It’s our way of trying to catch their eye, and convincing them to use us,” said Rose.

The youths were polishing their presentation Thursday, May 17, as they prepared to present to a group of judges that included business and technical professionals as well as professors from institutions like Thomas College and Kennebec Valley Community College. The judges, explained Rose, act as representatives for the fictitious Widget Company.

The project, which the students completed in about three weeks, is as close to real life as possible, said Morrison, and the judging process allows the students the opportunity to gain constructive feedback on their company itself and how they presented.

“I warn people about the project up front, it is a tough team project, and it’s probably too much for one person,” he said. “It’s similar to how everything works in real life, including the pressure of a deadline.”

“It’s been hard. But not seemingly impossible,” said Rose.

Morrison said it’s all about encouraging the students to work in teams.

“They get together and collaborate, using a cross-section of skills,” he said. “It’s artistic in nature, where people have an outlet to use a lot of different talents. It’s as close as we can get to the real thing.”