Lakeville Student’s Tugboat Playhouse Wins 1st Place at Minneapolis Home and Garden Show

David Oechsle Next to his Prize-Winning Tugboat PlayhouseA Lakeville South High School senior’s capstone project won first place at the Minneapolis Home and Garden Show on Saturday, February 29. David Oechsle built a tugboat playhouse and entered it into the show’s Project Playhouse contest. Oechsle’s playhouse was given the top prize out of the six high school student-created playhouses at the event, held at Minneapolis Convention Center.

Tugboat Playhouse Created by Lakeville South StudentOne lucky family was able to take home Oechsle’s creation. All six high school student-created playhouses were auctioned off at the Home and Garden show, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to the Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity. Oechsle’s tugboat playhouse was auctioned for $1,580.

Oechsle built several play features into his tugboat. Children can go into the hull of the boat. They can climb a ladder up to the top deck where they can go into the pilot house where the helm is located. Children can also crawl under the helm, through a door, and onto the bow of the ship.

The idea for the tugboat came at the end of Oechle’s junior year of high school. He says he expressed his interest in framing houses to STEM teacher, Kurt Weber, who connected him with Arches and Curves Custom Carpentry. During that same discussion, the two talked about Oechle’s capstone project.

“[Weber] introduced me to the idea of building a whimsical playhouse for my capstone project,” said Oechsle. “I decided to use my new knowledge and experience of framing houses [from last summer] to build a playhouse for my capstone project. Once that was decided, Dan Rawley, my capstone teacher, talked to me about entering the playhouse competition. From there on, I was all in,“ explained Oechsle.

Tugboat Playhouse Created by Lakeville South StudentOechsle said he decided on a tugboat design because it was more creative and unique than building a simple rectangular box. Oechsle spent his entire first semester, about four and a half months, designing the tugboat playhouse in a 3D design program called SketchUp, which he had never worked with prior to the project. He had to keep the boat within the required dimensions of 4ft wide by 8ft long and 8ft tall. Most of the parts were cut and manufactured using a computer numerical control (CNC) router. Oechsle said he managed to assemble the entire playhouse in less than a week.

“When it was time to start building I was in crunch time. The competition was six days away and I had not started. From there on out I was working on it before and after school every day,” explained Oechsle. 

Fortunately, Oechsle had help throughout the building process to finish on time. 

“Some of my friends helped out with odds and ends. Mostly priming and painting. I appreciate them so much for this as it allowed me to focus on other building tasks. I also want to thank my STEM teachers, Mr. Weber and Mr. Rawley. I could not have done this project without them,” said Oechsle.

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