The elves in Craig Sacco's Advanced Material Fabrication class at Cranston High School West have been working hard in their woodshop, creating 300 handcrafted helicopters for the children in Cranston's COZ program.
"The students in all of my classes draw a sketch of a toy that they think could be for a boy or a girl. It has to be for a 3- to 5-year-old and has to be appropriate and safe," said Sacco. "Then everyone in all four classes votes and the winning toy is the one we make each year."
Joe Pelosi designed this year’s toy, and said that coming up with his design was easy.
"I just thought of it because it was something I would have liked to play with when I was a kid. It was something I thought a little kid would like to play with," he said.
Pelosi said that he was very excited when he found out that his sketch was the winning design for this year's toy.
In the past, helicopters were created as the chosen toy, but this year Sacco said a twist has been added to the design: color. Several parts of the helicopter will be painted in primary colors, making the handcrafted wooden toy even more appealing to the recipients.
The project itself is also a bit more complicated than in past years. The students have many steps to go through in order to take the toy from design to completion.
"There are several holes to drill in the body alone. There are eight on the body itself, and six more on the dowels. There's cutting, sanding and the softening of the edges that all need to be done," Sacco said. "They're really stepping out of their comfort zone this year, but some of them are students who were here last year, this is at least their second year working in the shop."
In addition to Sacco's students, a partnership has been forged with Lou Giglietti's Graphic Communications students at the Cranston Area Career and Technical Center, housed at West.
"The students are creating 500 activity books to go along with Craig's helicopters," said Giglietti. "Mike Pescione has created 'Choppy' the helicopter as the character in the activity books. He didn't use a piece of clip art though, he's created the helicopter layer by layer from a gray background."
Pescione is a junior at West, and a second-year student in the three-year Graphic Communications program at CACTC.
Giglietti is pleased with the partnership between the two programs and proud that the project will give his students a sense of doing good for others.
"It's nice to be doing something that means something. It's nice that when the kids say, 'Why are we doing this,' they'll know why," Giglietti said.
Sacco has seen his students stepping up to the plate this year in his class as well.
"I have a really good group this year. They're hardworking, they're very respectful, and they really took ownership of the project this year, which was great," he said.
David Regine, program supervisor for the Technology Education Program at West, recently stopped by Sacco's woodshop and Giglietti's adjacent computer lab for a visit, and caught a glimpse of the progress being made on this year's toys. What he saw summed up what he feels the programs are all about.
"In Technology Education, we teach our students about real life applications. This Toys for Tots project gives the students the opportunity to not only learn about the design process in manufacturing, but to understand what it means to give back to the community during the holiday season," he said.
COZ will be picking up the toys next week and delivering them to the children in need.