Getting your Evanston news from Facebook? Try the Evanston RoundTable’s free daily and weekend email newsletters – sign up now!

When was the last time you heard of a 16-year-old transforming chaos into clarity? Charlie Davis, an ETHS junior this fall, a 2-year veteran of the high school’s Geometry in Construction (GIC) Program and an aspiring Eagle Scout candidate in Evanston’s Troop 929, did just that during the second week of August. He led his Eagle Scout Project to convert a hodgepodge of tools, equipment, and construction supplies into a storage space Norm, of “This Old House” would be proud of.

“I really wanted to give back to this program,” Charlie said, espousing one of scouting’s tenets to give back to the community.  So over a period of several months, working with Matt Kaiser of the GIC Program and his Troop’s Eagle Project mentors, Charlie drafted a plan to partially insulate a newly donated storage shed, to panel its walls and to install storage rods and metal peg board. The plan was over 50 pages, detailed enough so a stranger could carry it out. It contained exquisitely accurate technical drawings; lists of materials, tools and equipment; a budget including funds-sourcing; and a discussion of how many workers would be needed, where they would come from, and how he would make sure they performed their work safely.  

For four sweltering days, Charlie managed a crew whose ages ranged from 12 to 75, seventh graders to recent college graduates, dads, moms and a retired metal worker. Most were affiliated with Troop 929; eight are Eagle Scouts. Collectively they put in well over 100 man-hours of teamwork safely and with camaraderie.  Under his watchful eye, he deployed a series of crews to cut and place rolls of insulation in the walls. Next came the plywood sheathing, which had to be cut and slotted to accommodate wall outlets, door and light switches, exit signs, and fire alarms. Tasks included measuring, plumb-lining, cutting with safety knives, using chop saws, circular saws, rack saws, reciprocating saws, sabre saws, pipe cutters; hammering, drilling, screw-driving, bolt driving, boring; mounting metal peg board with silhouettes of each hand tool pasted onto the boards to illustrate where each tool should be hung.

As many RoundTable readers know, the GIC Program will start building its fourth single-family house in four years this fall. Renowned for replacing schoolroom pencils with jobsite hammers, this program has transformed for a growing number of students what used to be obtuse theories into sharp realities. It is not coincidental that diverse hands-on learning is central to both GIC and scouting: safety, civics, economics, law, finance, not to mention carpentry and contracting.

The leader of such a project is an erstwhile entrepreneur finding a need, drumming up worker support a la Tom Sawyer while making sure the client is satisfied with the results. “This Eagle Project was a godsend,” said Matt Kaiser as he rolled down the (organized) storage shed’s doors, knowing he could now truly look forward to the three GIC classes that will soon descend onto the job site.