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Eli Whitney Tech Students Gain Experience as YLS Gains New Desktops

Yale Law School was looking for an inexpensive but reliable way to replace more than 500 classroom desktops in its Levinson Auditorium, the site of large lecture classes and a major venue for Law School and University special events. Carpentry instructor Sal Lombardo from New Haven’s Eli Whitney Technical High School was looking for practical experience for his junior and senior high school students. A partnership developed, under the supervision of Lombardo and Kevin Rose, the Law School’s supervisor of building services, culminating in the installation of 514 new desktops in January.

“This was a great opportunity for our students to get hands-on experience in the carpentry trade,” said Lombardo. “We were able to provide a high-quality, cost-effective product for the Law School, and the students really enjoyed working on the project and seeing it through to completion.”

Carpentry instructor Sal Lombardo and Eli Whitney Tech students gather in the Levinson Auditorium where they replaced more than 500 desktops.

About twenty Eli Whitney students participated in the project over the course of two semesters. They sat down with Rose to discuss what material to use, what finish, and how to install the desktops in a reasonable amount of time. They decided to go with Russian Baltic Birch, an extra hard plywood that has a fine granular pattern and gives the appearance of solid wood. To efficiently produce the desktops, the students used an assembly line strategy whereby four of them cut, four routered, four sanded, and eight painted the desktops. During the final installation stage, the students came to Levinson Auditorium once a week, installing 50 to 75 desks at a time, until the job was complete.

“In doing projects like these, the students learn to speak and coordinate with the customer, draw up a contract, discuss the material that will be used, and develop a plan to complete the job in a timely fashion,” said Lombardo. “This will be a lifelong experience these students will take with them far after they graduate from high school.”

“I was extremely pleased with the students’ work,” said Kevin Rose, who noted that the quality of the first desktop completed was the same as the quality of the last one done. “They were amazingly consistent and professional throughout the entire job, and I would not hesitate to use them again.”

Other recent projects Eli Whitney students have completed for Yale include the building of two ticket booths at the Yale Bowl that resemble the tunnel entrances to the Bowl.