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Supporters engineer way to bring floats back to Homecoming

Fallbrook High School ASB director Josh Way could hardly contain his excitement last week when he announced, “We’re bringing floats back to Homecoming!”

Due to the new synthetic track surface installed at the school in 2007-2008, last year was the first in 30 years the high school students weren’t allowed to build Homecoming floats to parade around the football field track in celebration of the annual event.

Now it appears the challenges presented by the new track surface have been overcome, with a team effort between high school staff members and parent and community volunteers.

“The man who came up with the solution is Mike McGuire,” said Way, explaining that McGuire was one of several people who had been contemplating over the past year how to overcome the challenges. “He said he had an idea how to bring the floats back that would meet the school district’s guidelines.”

McGuire, a certified manufacturing engineer, said he knew research was the key to resolving the issue.

“I watched them build that track,” he said. “I knew it wasn’t strictly a weight issue because I saw them drive lots of tractors on it.”

McGuire enlisted Way’s help to find out the concerns about the track, including information from the manufacturer.

“I figured we could beat this from an engineering standpoint,” he explained. “We had to demonstrate, from an engineering standpoint, that we wouldn’t damage the track. The track is a valuable asset for the school.”

McGuire said the manufacturer provided the information needed and told them, “You can land an airplane on my track” when asked about the weight limit. However, fluids on the track are another story.

“Hydrocarbons are the issue,” said McGuire. “You can’t get oil, gasoline or hydraulic fluid on the surface.”

Once he was given that information, McGuire developed a design for the floats that would ensure that no fluids would be spilled on the track.

“Essentially, the floats couldn’t be powered, so I figured we just had to use mini trucks that had been stripped down to the point that there could be no leaks,” he said. “That meant getting rid of the engine, transmission, radiator, et cetera.

“The goal is to keep the truck base to less than 1,000 pounds, because with decorations it will become 2,000 pounds. If you inflate the tires to 65 pounds, you can then pull the float.”

When it came to weight on the track, McGuire put pencil to paper and figured out that in the modified design, the pounds per square inch on the tires equaled one-tenth of the impact of a human being running on the track surface.

“That’s just engineering,” he said. “When a football player steps down on the track with the ball of his foot, he’s putting more pressure on the track than these floats will.”

Officials at the high school gave the new design a thumbs-up.

“We met with business services manager Chet Gannett and facilities director Jim Cristacos and they were very supportive,” Way said. “They said, ‘We can do this!’”

Principal Rod King was behind the project 100 percent, McGuire added.

Way said the approval of the new plan was such good news, “we were doing cartwheels on the way back.” He said the next task at hand was finding the vehicles needed.

“We had the plan. The kids were excited. Then we just had to find vehicles we could tear down and keep from year to year,” Way said. “In the old days, each high school class would borrow a small truck to build the float atop, but given the way the vehicles must be modified now, donations of trucks had to be sought that could be reused from year to year.”

According to Way, Doug Sehnert of the ag department and longtime parent volunteer Jim Prestininzi lent their help. “They worked on getting some trucks donated,” he said.

Fallbrook alum Roy Costello, owner of Costello’s Auto Repair, was contacted and became instrumental.

“Roy towed one truck in for us that had been donated and then he donated a truck himself to the program,” Way said, commending Costello for his willingness to help the kids.

“Roy is the kind of guy who just makes things happen,” said Way. “He literally came in and saved the day.”

Once the two donated trucks arrived at the school, instructors and students in the industrial arts programs stepped up to lend their help.

Mike Sherriett, who teaches metal shop classes, instructed about 20 of his advanced level students on how to dismantle the vehicles for the project.

“It was easy because the kids like destroying things and this was an authorized destruction process, so they are enjoying it tremendously,” said Sherriett with a laugh.

He also said many of the parts being removed from the trucks would be kept and used for educational purposes in his class.

After the metal shop students finished their part of the project, the trucks moved into the auto shop, under the supervision of instructor Kevin Karnes, for cleaning and other work.

“Since there are about 20 kids in advanced auto shop, it was a way for even more kids to get involved,” said Sherriett.

Woodshop teacher David Reilly was happy to have his students build the wooden frames that would be mounted to the vehicle chassis so that chicken wire and tissue paper flowers could be secured to them.

“The boys who were most helpful with the framing were Chris Kott, Alex Zeledon and Cody Callanan,” explained Reilly. “They did a really good job.”

Given the fact that Homecoming is scheduled for Friday, October 16, Way said there has been only enough preparation time to get two trucks ready for float building, versus the four they hope to have next year.

However, Way sees this as yet another opportunity for positive student interaction.

“We are going to have two floats this year and we are combining the sophomore and senior class for one and the freshman and junior class for the other,” he explained.

Way said that in both cases, this pairs up one experienced float-building class with a novice class.

That means class presidents Heston Horwin (2010) and Demi Barrett (2012) and Breanna Chavez (2011) and Diana Alcarez (2013) will combine their work forces on float projects.

Way was also quick to point out that the ASB will continue with the community service projects that were started last year in lieu of floats.

“Those are still important and we are going to give [the projects] their own week,” he said. “We want a full week of high school students out there doing community service work. We didn’t want to lose that legacy; we want it to continue.”

Fallbrook High School ASB welcomes donations to the float project in the form of funds to purchase tissue paper, chicken wire and other supplies as well as food and drink donations for the students during the work parties.

There is also a need for two more mini trucks (running or not and tires [size 70 R14] in good shape.

Those who would like to contribute any of the above may contact Josh Way at (760) 723-6300, ext. 3501, or [email protected].

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