It was time to begin building! All the furniture had been rearranged, and a pile of lumber sat in the corner. The class was itching to grab tools and start making big decisions. The first order of business was to turn the back of the classroom into a wall of whiteboards for project ideation and pegboards for storage.

Montgomery HS - work beginsThe boards were to be fastened to 1″ x 2″ furring strips, and the furring strips screwed into the studs behind the wall. The delicate art of stud-finding began. The students started earnestly, measuring from the edge of the wall in 16″ increments (the standard spacing for studs) and marking where both the top and bottom of the furring strip would be to ensure they’d be in plumb.

With everything marked out, someone grabbed the drill and plunged in. All that came out was powdered drywall — not a good sign! They rechecked their measurements, but that wasn’t the problem. The class began an exploratory exercise to find the studs. They drilled in 2″ increments on either side of each mark they had already made, trying to hit wood. Another method was to knock on the wall to try to find the stud. Getting closer to the stud, knocks sound less hollow. Unfortunately, the walls were covered in carpeting, so even the knocking method wasn’t working too well.

Montgomery HS - work begins2Meanwhile, Anthony was getting restless, letting his mind wander. Looking at the tools, he suddenly blurted, “I wanna build a basketball hoop for the classroom!” Without missing a beat, Ms. Ayre said, “Well you can do that! There are sites that tell you how.” Ms. Ayre put an iPad into his hands and pointed him towards Instructables. Anthony commented, “Cool, that sounds like Lunchables!” and within seconds, he had found a tutorial on how to build an indoor b-ball hoop from an old bicycle.

Back at the back walls, it was established that studs were placed completely irregularly, anywhere from 14″ to 18″. This not only presented a problem in terms of finding the actual studs, but it threw off the anticipated spacing of the whiteboard and pegboard sheets, which are 48″ wide and are divided nicely by regularly spaced studs. It turned out that studs aren’t always 16″ apart; the suggested 16″ spacing is only a guide for contractors. Sometimes studs need to be placed around pipes and electrical conduits behind the walls.

After about an hour of stud-finding, the group came to the consensus that the best solution would be to use drywall anchors to affix the furring strips to the wall. Doing this would maintain the layout of their whiteboard and pegboard. But with class coming to a quick end, continued building would have to wait for another day. All the same, the experience made for a valuable lesson in troubleshooting!

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