~North Carolina high school students in drafting class challenged to design a school bus conversion.~

Interview By: Brock Butterfield ~

Instructor: Todd Matthews ~

I opened an email in my inbox recently that both surprised and intrigued me. Topsail High School teacher Todd Matthews sent me an email explaining how he had tasked his students with designing a skoolie for their family as the final project for his Drafting I class. He asked if I had some time to do a Google Hangout the students that had some questions from an "expert". We organized a time and I spent just time with his two classes to answers some questions they had in regards to building a skoolie. At one moment when we were talking about the layout I asked how many of them had taken into account for the wheel wells of the bus of which no one raised their hand. A mistake I had also made in my first drafts and layout of my first school bus conversion.

After the video call I spoke with Todd and asked if I could write an article on the students and the class curriculum. The fact that high school students are now being given the challenge to look at tiny living as a way of the future made me realize that one day it may not be a fun challenge but yet, a reality.

Todd Matthews drafting class reviewing school bus conversions.

Topsail High School Teacher Todd Matthews shows the students the Bus Life Adventure website to give them an idea of what they're going to be designing.



"Wave to the camera kids! I wanna take a screenshot!"


I was curious more about the class and how Todd had come up with the idea so I composed some questions and shot them his way.

How did the idea come about to have your students design a skoolie layout?

I came up with the idea from my love and experience of traveling. Also I use a final design project to assess the students by giving them a hands on project that will encompass the full curriculum/class.

Students use software to layout the school bus conversion.

What criteria did they have to follow?

Final Design Project Drafting I Skoolie Design

Design a Skoolie (Converted School Bus to RV) that will fit your family. It needs to have the following:

  1. Bed/Sleeping area for each person.
  2. Kitchen area with sink and cooktop/oven
  3. How will you have electricity? (Solar/Generator)
  4. Bathroom with toilet and shower/tub
  5. Laundry Washer/Dryer
  6. Living room area/Gathering area/Dining area
  7. Walls need to be 2” thick

Grading Rubric

  1. Brainstorming Ideas/questions? Full Page = 20 pts.
  2. Research notes with website URL’s (Wikipedia not allowed) 4 websites and full page of notes = 20 pts.
  3. Sketches with explanation notes. 1. Sketch Isometric/Oblique/Perspective 2. Multiview = 25 pts.
  4. Engineered blueprints with Title Block, Border, Dimensions, Multiview, and notes. = 35 pts.






What obstacles did they encounter in their designs?

        - Time management (students get distracted by talking to each other)
        - Lack of creativity or lack of motivation
        - Not taking into account the wheel wells of the rear tires after discussion with you.
        - Fitting all of their immediate family. I have a student that has 7 people living with him.
        - Lack of design experience this is a Drafting I class.

Students use drafting software to layout school bus conversions.

Students use drafting software to layout school bus conversions.

What was the most creative use of space that a student demonstrated?

One picture had the bathroom right behind the driver area and the washer and dryer across from it, followed by the lounge/living room/kitchen area and beds at the back twin XL underneath parents Queen above. I like this idea since you don't have to walk all the way to the back of the bus to use the restroom if you're outside hanging out. Another one was the student with 6 people in his family. 2 sets of bunk beds with parents queen at the back. One student with a washer/dryer across from the bathroom made a statement that this location gives easy access and convenience. (Awesome thought, take off dirty clothes put in washer/hamper, dirty towels, etc.)
The coolest ideas was the student that had the sliding porch/deck that came out from under the bus. It would take a engineer to work out some of the issue and I'm sure water tanks would hinder placement and size but it was an out of the box thought. This is the first time I've done the skoolie project, I've done the container house project and small under 1,000 feet project. I enjoyed this one because I want to be able to travel with my family across this great nation. When teachers are passionate about something it helps motivate and inspire their students.


One students school bus conversion layout concept.


Another creative use of space and layout for a school bus conversion.