Local Murrieta teacher helps build a miniature golf course for Shop Class on Disney Plus

students and teacher
The Shop Class Episode 2 Team was made up of one teacher and two students who had never met before: Marco Perez (Left), Kimberly Kocaya and Daron Yacoubian (right). Valley News/Courtesy photo

Local teacher Kimberly Kocaya was selected to take part in one of Disney’s new shows on the popular streaming service Disney Plus.

Shop Class is a new hands-on building experience in which children are brought together under the guidance of local teachers, an Imagineer and designer to compete. The show has six episodes, and each episode has three teams which are made up of two children that are put together with a shop class teacher.

“I grew up in the boat shop,” Kocaya said. “I was born there I think, so I was always changing the oil, and also I would build boats and I would take them to the boat races, put a fishing line on the end and run up and down the beach.

“That’s the first thing I think I ever really built,” she said, laughing.

Kocaya said she first heard of the show after receiving an email about it.

Marco Perez is one of two students that were selected from a pool of over 5,000 applications nationwide for the new Disney+ show, Shop Class, where students are guided as they build and compete with different projects. Valley News/Courtesy photo

“The big deal was you have to go through the whole Skype thing, Skype interview. It’s kind of a little bit nerve-wracking, and the background check was very intense,” Kocaya said.

Kocaya is a science teacher at Bella Vista Middle School in Murrieta.

The episode took several days to film. For their episode, titled “Hole in Won,” their team had to build a miniature golf course.

“We had two children with us; we had never met before,” Kocaya said. “You have to bond with them quickly, and you don’t know what each other’s capable of. You don’t know if you can complete the task. So that is the biggest thing I’ve ever done in a time crunch and building what they asked us too.”

Daron Yacoubian, 14, said he first heard of the show through a flyer. His mother, Maro Yacoubian, said he had to go through a submission process, being interviewed through Skype as well as sending in videos.

“I’ve been building since I was a toddler. Going with my brother in the garage, he’d fidget with Legos with me, and now I’m here working with wood,” Daron Yacoubian said. “I participated in the Los Angeles County Science Fair, and I created a solar pool heater apparatus, so I took that, I won first place and (then) I went to the California State Science Fair.”

Daron Yacoubian’s partner, Marco Perez, is 12 years old and was the youngest student on Shop Class. He’s been working with wood in a shop class offered at his school for the past two years.

“Being on the show was amazing,” Perez said. “It was probably the best days of my life. I mean it was so fun working with Daron and Ms. Kim, especially because they gave us what we had to do, then we could make whatever we wanted out of it and make our own ideas.”

Their theme was outer space.

“It was very hard, very challenging,” Daron Yacoubian said. “It was a great idea. I loved doing that with my teammate Marco. He loves to play mini golf, and also Ms. Kim was a great coach. She helped kind of keep us in control.”

Marco Perez, 12, is the youngest builder on Shop Class, a Disney+ show that first aired on Feb. 28. Valley News/Courtesy photo

There were also moments that the audience didn’t see. Maro Yacoubian said that it was pretty hot and a stressful episode.

“When I’d make a mistake, they put the cameras in front of me – when I was going to get the nails, I dropped all the nails everywhere,” Daron Yacoubian said. “It was very hot; they put the whole tarp over us.”

Half of the first day involved pulling out large pieces of construction paper to draw out their own vision for the golf course. Kocaya took the best idea from each of the designs and put it all into one.

“Their team did a lot of listening to the judges,” Maro Yacoubian said. “So they took the criticism, comments and guidance and tried to not just come up with their own idea for a great golf course, but also putting in those elements that the judges were hinting at or specifically asking for so that they could perform well in the competition.”

They weren’t able to get everything they wanted regarding specific items.

“Sometimes they’d come up with ideas, and midcourse they’d have to kind of change their plan because they were trying to make this a very fair and even competition,” Maro Yacoubian said.

Since the episode aired, Kocaya and the boys’ team won, and they will be continuing on to the semifinals scheduled to air April 10.

“It’s just really fun (building),” Perez said. “The satisfaction of the result that you built it, and you can use it; I love it.”

Lexington Howe can be reached by email at valleystaff@reedermedia.com.