- Associated Press - Monday, March 17, 2014

MANITOWOC, Wis. (AP) - The sound of band saws echoed through the hall of Lincoln High School as wood shop students worked diligently to craft memorial flag cases for local veterans.

Once complete, approximately 24 flag cases, which can cost upward of $50 each online, will be donated to the Manitowoc County Veterans Service Office.

“I think it’s great,” Veterans Service Officer Jane Babcock said. “We’ll offer them to families that maybe can’t afford to buy one.”

Students have been building flag cases at Lincoln for several years, but this year instructor Richard Kangas tweaked requirements to focus on quality. The goal, Kangas said, was to give students a better feel for what it would be like to work in a production facility, so “jigs,” a type of mold that helps students set machines correctly, were developed to assist students in maintaining adequate measurements.

“Now it is more like a manufacturing job,” Kangas said earlier this month. “You can use the jig to set up the machine and check that your setup is right.”

The measurements and angles of the cuts have to be perfect for the corners to match and the box to take the right shape.

“You have to make sure you get the measurements right, otherwise the flag won’t fit in there,” Kangas noted.

Students in the class said getting the measurements just right is one of the most challenging aspects of the project. Even students such as junior Olivia Kakuk, who had built a flag case for a previous class, said getting everything perfect is tough.

“There are a lot of angles to cut, and they have to be spot on or it won’t turn out,” she said. “It will look like a weird triangle. I had to do it like four times last year.”

Kakuk, an advance wood class student, assisted students in the general woods class in creating the flag cases. She worked with a group of students attempting to create a flag case from start to finish in just five days.

“I think we’re doing pretty well,” she said of her group. “I think (we can get it done) if we don’t procrastinate a lot.”

With plenty of work to do, there was little time for procrastination. Creating the flag cases requires the use of every machine in the shop - so students in the group played to their strengths and each took on the part of the project they felt most comfortable with.

“I feel like I’m learning a lot of skills with the machines,” student Mike Heck said. “If I wouldn’t have taken this class, I wouldn’t have known the first thing about running a disc sander or a band saw. I think those will be useful skills to have in the future.”

According to Kangas, the class not only teaches students hard skills such as working with the saws, but also teaches them soft skills such as patience and teamwork.

“When kids come in, sometimes they don’t have soft skills like how to work together,” he said. “You have to teach (both hard and soft skills).”

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