Emanuel Conde always dreamed of building something big.

The Merced College student had seen some major welding projects during his high school years, but had never had the opportunity to be a participant in them.

That changed in Fall 2018 when a Bay Area-based construction company commissioned Conde to build them a trailer from scratch. The project consumed Conde’s fall semester and winter break as he put in upwards of 12-hour days under the watchful eye of Professor Chad Russell.

Conde had hoped to finish before the start of the spring semester, but even with some unexpected delays, just a few small tweaks and a paint job remain.

“(It’s) a 30-foot, gooseneck trailer with a five-foot tilt bed,” Conde said. “I always wanted to build a gooseneck trailer. I’d always seen in the high school shop that they’d work on big projects, we just didn’t have the funding or a place to build it.
“Professor Russell was really supportive when I told him the idea.”

The project has been a fun test for both student and professor. Conde said he started with a basic schematic for the trailer and has put his own tweaks and touches on the design along the way. It’s forced Conde to utilize all the skills he’s acquired in the Merced College Welding Program as well as learn some new tricks along the way.

“This is the kind of stuff I used to do when I was at the high school level, so being away from the last five years and coming back to it has been a fun challenge,” Russell said. “It’s exciting. It gives me another reason to come to work every day, because not only Manny was involved, but there’s a few other students that have helped him. They see was he’s doing and what he’s capable of, and it gets them excited to come as well.

“It’s bringing out the creativity in me as well, because he has questions and I really have to think, ‘Will that work? Will that function?’ We started by looking at a trailer that was very similar, but now if you pulled that other trailer alongside them, they’d like completely different.”

Russell said Conde’s dedication to the project has been inspirational. He’s logged hundreds of hours, sacrificing both his off-class time and weekends. The end product is a trailer that should hold about 24,000 pounds, allowing the family-run business to easily relocate construction equipment from one site to another.  

“I’ve really enjoyed it because everything is handmade, custom made, so I get to design it how I want,” Conde said. “It’s not like I can just go buy this. Almost everything we had to make ourselves. I’ve learned a lot. I’m learning how to bend metal, learning how to cut stuff out on the plasma, laying it out and making sure everything is square.

“The hardest part has been moving things around. The I-beams alone weigh 800 pounds each. I’m pretty happy with the results. I can eventually show this to my family that I built this in college and maybe inspire them to build something too.”