In his own words, after winning first place in the annual Meridian Christmas Parade the third straight year, Ross Collins Career and Technical Center Director Rob Smith said it's going to be difficult to outdo this year's effort.
Students and faculty at the school converted an old school bus into a life-sized Tonka Truck, which was displayed in the parade and captured the gold for Ross Collins. It was a project that began several weeks prior to the parade on the weekend of Dec. 5, with one of those weeks being taken off due to the Thanksgiving holidays.
"We started three weeks before (the parade)," Smith said. "There was only two weeks of construction time. To go from a bus slated to go to the scrap metal pile to a Tonka Truck was quite a feat."
Ross Collins is an educational center serving the Meridian Public School District that prepares students for entry-level to more advanced jobs in a wide range of occupations, including welding, engineering and continuing education. The truck, which sat proudly on display in front of the school last week, was a collaborative effort from several different classes at the school.
Engineering students at the center designed the dump bed and several other components, while the welding and fabrication classes deconstructed the bus and fabricated the metal components based on the engineering class' designs.
Automotive technician students did work on the converted bus to make it "road worthy," while the school's collision repair classes completed the paint job on the new Tonka Truck. The carpentry class pitched in by constructing a bench in the back of truck to allow Santa Claus to have a seat during the parade.
"I thought it turned out well, given the size of it," collision repair teacher Mart Murphree said. "My kids are used to working on cars, but nothing this big. They really stepped up to the challenge. It's at least twice as big as what we usually work with."
Smith said he was impressed with the group work that spanned across several different classes.
"The whole school used it as a project to come together and utilize all of our skills — it was one giant problem-solving project," Smith said. "Industries say that's what people need to have: critical thinking and problem-solving skills. The bottom line is, it gets kids excited about what they were doing."
We would like to thank The Meridian Star for reprint permission.