JOPLIN, Mo. —
Inside the auto collision repair workshop at Franklin Technology Center sits a little red Radio Flyer wagon.
Parked next to it is a large vehicle-sized replica, filled at this particular moment with about a dozen teenagers who helped create it.
“I think it looks amazing,” said Carlos Carrasco, a senior at Carl Junction High School. “To me, it looks identical to the picture we got off the Internet (that was) the role model.”
Juniors and seniors from local high schools, including Joplin, Carl Junction and Sarcoxie, have spent the past 13 weeks repurposing a 1994 Ford Ranger extended-cab pickup truck into an oversized model of the popular toy wagon as part of their collision repair course at the technical school, instructor Dan Wininger said.
Students took the truck’s cab off, fashioned it into the shape of a wagon, added red paint with white “Radio Flyer” lettering on the side and installed an 8-foot-long black handle on the front. Even the vehicle’s wheels have been painted white with red centers, just like the toy version, he said.
The vehicle is street-legal and fully drivable, although there are currently no plans to take it out regularly, Wininger said. The truck’s dashboard is also intact, with working headlights, heat and air conditioning, he said.
The project was finished just in time for the Joplin Christmas parade, which had originally been scheduled for Dec. 10 and was rescheduled for Tuesday. The interior of the vehicle is filled with straw, upon which the students plan to sit as they drive the parade route.
Franklin Tech, a vocational training school managed by the Joplin School District, serves high school students from districts including Joplin, Webb City, Sarcoxie, Carl Junction and Diamond, as well as Joplin’s College Heights Christian School and McAuley Catholic High School. It also has adult education training programs.
The school offers courses in areas such as business technology, automotive technology and collision repair, culinary arts, engineering graphics, computer networking, welding, construction and HVAC.
Wininger said his students learned valuable skills while completing projects such as this, including welding, painting and some body work. But he also wanted them to enjoy their work.
“I was looking for something unique and different to do,” he said. “It has been fun for them.”
Annah Stovall, a senior from Carl Junction, said she was pleased that the project came together in just 13 weeks.
“I learned that we can work as a team and get something done,” she said. “I absolutely love it. I know it has some imperfections, but I don’t think anyone has ever seen teenagers put this together.”
Especially students working in less-than-ideal locations.
Franklin Tech has been temporarily located at Fourth Street and Grand Avenue since its building on Iowa Avenue was destroyed in the 2011 tornado. A permanent building is under construction along with Joplin High School at its former location. It is scheduled to open in August.
Bobby Beyer, a Carl Junction junior, was one of a handful of students who tackled the welding for the project. He said it took the hard work of all students in the collision repair classes to make the wagon a reality.
“If your machine’s not running on all gears, it’s not running properly,” he said. “And if we didn’t have everyone helping, there’s no way we would have gotten it done on time.”