Jacob Calis had always thought about building a boat.

At age 18, he had a reason to build one. He did it for school.

Jacob and 36 other seniors at Mountain View High School presented their Senior Capstone projects to a room of judges last week. In a Senior Capstone course, a student, with the help of a community mentor, takes on a project of his or her own idea and design, pushing themselves beyond their comfort level and current realm of knowledge.

"It had to be something that they didn't just automatically know how to do," said Iesha Whitfield-Walker, the Capstone teacher and coordinator.

Having a Capstone class at Mountain View has been in the works for a few years, but this is the school's first year of projects, with Whitfield-Walker at the helm.

"Senior Capstone … helps them get excited about their education and shows them that it can be customizable," Whitfield-Walker said.

After a student develops the project's focus, whether it is to restore a vehicle, plan a wedding or build a boat, the student must keep a portfolio about his or her progress, Whitfield-Walker said. They keep records, take pictures, shoot video and document every step of the way.

Calis, who is looking to study engineering at the University of Arizona next year, said the design for his pontoon boat was fairly simple. The boat was made out of wood, metal and plastic.

The project started with him learning how to weld. He documented construction of the frame, all the way to taking his boat out for its first test run on Silverbell Lake.

"The hardest part was trying to figure out how I was going attach the plastic barrels to the frame," Calis said. "Originally I wanted to get steel barrels. That way I could just weld the steel directly to the frame. But since the steel is always in the water and it would start to rust … plastic doesn't have that."

Part of Calis' presentation included a video of him and three others chasing a group of ducks around the lake. The ducks were easily able to paddle away from the slow-moving boat.

For around $400, and the help of eBay, Craigslist, scavenging around his house, and working at Wendy's, Calis constructed a boat that passed inspection and was licensed by the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

Alex Potter, 17, bought a 1994 Acura Integra for about $400 from a friend. For her Capstone project, she restored the vehicle to working and running condition.

Student Michelle Sigl gave her presentation on how she choreographed a dance. Jamie Leverty planned her mentor's wedding, and showed the project to the judges.

Students were judged on their personal appearance, eye contact, posture, visual aids, staying within their given time limit, and meeting other criteria.

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