Rick Yepez, an assembly supervisor for Panel Specialists, Inc, inspects desks that career and technical education students at Temple High School built. The local manufacturing company partnered with the school for the first IChallengeU project where students solve real-life business challenges.

Student projects have progressed to an entirely different level of expertise, making yesterday’s paper mache assignment pale in comparison to what Temple High School students are constructing — furniture.

More than a dozen students presented dorm room furniture they designed and built Thursday morning to corporate and community leaders.

These construction students teamed up with students from the accounting class who helped evaluate production costs and prepared detailed financial guidelines and invoices.

“We decided to bring accounting and construction together in the school environment no different than we would in the professional environment,” Panel Specialists Inc. President Elliot Germany said.

The high school’s career and technical education advisory council partnered with Panel Specialists Inc — a local manufacturer of wall panels and residential furniture — for the first IChallengeU project giving students the opportunity to tackle real-life business challenges.

This challenge was not only to create, but understand the manufacturing logistics and financial responsibility of building dorm room furniture.

“It is an introduction to a real world scenario,” Denise Ayres, Temple Independent School District career and technical education director, told the crowd. “Everything about this project has the fingerprints of Temple Wildcat students all over it.”

On display were three professionally finished desks fitted with file and box drawers along with movable chests, mobile bookcases and additional slide out writing spaces.

Those in attendance were invited to look over each finished product. Many were impressed by the desk’s exterior and interior professional grade, including Temple school Superintendent Robin Battershell.

“It is just such quality work,” Battershell said.

Battershell was so impressed by the value of the desks that she vowed to purchase one, which was priced at $325, but worth $564.

All funds benefit the Wildcat Workforce, the brand for the school’s career and technical education program which promotes post-secondary readiness.

Germany said opening doors to project-based learning for students gives them the hands-on work experience they need to succeed at the professional level. He said developing skills in students like teamwork and problem solving are valuable.

“Those skills are critical in today’s work place,” he said. “So when they get exposed to them at 15, 16 and 17 years old they are going to be leaps and bounds ahead of their counterparts should they choose to go to college or if they choose to go straight into the workforce.”

Bryce Richardson, a freshman construction student helped assemble the desks, but said he did in fact face some challenges that were costly, but said overall the project was a great learning experience.

“We assumed that the holes went to a specific type of screw so we started putting in the permanent screws to certain holes they fit in,” he said, “but risked ruining the piece trying to take them out and it put us several days behind.”

Germany said taking time out of his company’s schedule to assist these students was an easy choice to make.

“How do you not make time?” Germany said. “We have a vision that says we want to enhance the environment of which people live, learn, heal, work and play and part of that is being an integral part of the community.”