Equipment Fair Offers Hands-On Learning To Smithson Valley Students

November 29, 2023 - Smithson Valley High School students received hands-on learning during the campus’ first Equipment Fair which featured a mini excavator, skid steer and concrete pump truck.

With the help of local construction companies, career and technical education (CTE) and architecture teacher Dalton Rudloff, gave students in his classes the opportunity to step into the driver’s seat of these machines and see what it is like to operate them.

“I hope this helps students understand that in architecture and construction you need to use the proper tool for the job, and while these machines are small, they operate like the larger ones do,” says Rudloff who is in his first year of teaching and spent 40 years in construction.

Before the students were allowed to take the controls, Rudloff had them simulate the machines’ controls right at their own desks using yardsticks. They also studied safety protocols before operating the equipment.

Students agreed that it was a little awkward at first to pretend to use the equipment in the classroom, but they were pleased at how the lessons carried over to the actual machines.

“I appreciate the opportunity to learn about construction and architecture,” says Nathan Balthrop, who is a senior and interested in studying and working in architecture after he graduates from high school. “I’m a hands-on learner, so it’s nice to get out of the classroom and try something new.”

That’s exactly why Rudloff organized the fair and reached out to construction companies for help, and he hopes to make it bigger and better next year.

The companies which stepped up with equipment include Texas First Rentals which donated the skid steer and mini excavator; Bigfoot Concrete Pumping which set up a pump truck; and Dirt Works which donated a truck load of fill dirt.

Senior Jaxson Maynard is grateful to his teacher and the companies who went out of their way to organize the fair. He is interested in studying construction science and architecture after graduation and feels like his architecture classes have taught him a lot.

“This class is interactive, and Mr. Rudloff brings his experience and shares that experience with us,” says Maynard. “It has opened my eyes to what is possible.”

Senior Joshua Cortes agrees.

“Mr. Rudloff is open to hearing about things we want to do,” says Cortes, who explains that his interest in construction began when he took woodshop in the eighth grade, and he moved into architecture because of his growing interest in interior and exterior design. He knows, however, he still needs to understand the principles of construction, in order to excel in the field.

This is just one example of how Comal ISD is providing students with real-world knowledge and skills through CTE courses, and the district continues to seek community partners to help students explore career options in a variety of fields. For more information, contact Renee Martinez, CTE director, at [email protected].



-The Smithson Valley High School architecture II class appreciated the first Equipment Fair on campus. Pictured in front of the Bigfoot Concrete Pumping truck from left is Elizabeth Ropa, Joshua Cortes, Kasen Leming, Daniel Hall, Nathan Balthrop, Jaxson Maynard and CTE teacher Dalton Rudloff.

-Smithson Valley High School senior Jaxson Maynard takes the controls of the mini excavator donated by Texas First Rentals.

-Smithson Valley High School senior Joshua Cortes takes his turn at the mini excavator donated by Texas First Rentals while Kasen Leming looks on.

-Smithson Valley High School senior Nathan Balthrop moves dirt provided by Dirt Works with a skids steer donated by Texas First Rentals.


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