What happens when four engineers share a house?

James McCulloch and his housemates take home improvements to new heights – literally.

There were four engineers living in a house: one mechanical, one civil, one electrical and one in management consulting. It sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, but it’s not. It’s one of the greatest things I have ever done!

“I’ve just had a crazy idea, let’s go to Bunnings!” is a statement exclaimed at least once a week in my house, but most recently by my housemate Brendan after he road-tripped back to Sydney from North Queensland in an RV with his dad and a new 100kg computer controlled router. (It wouldn’t quite fit within Jetstar’s 10kg carry on limit).

Although our house isn’t small, where do you think he decided would be the best place to put it? Yep, that’s right. Under his bed.

After a couple of scrawls on paper; a Bunnings trip (whence I, a mechanical engineer had to convince an electrical engineer that “If you’re going to put your bed on stilts and have a room under your bed, you can’t use off cut timber. Go structural.”); and a few hours annoying our neighbours with absurd amounts of sawing and drilling, Brendan’s bed was in the air and his jig had a home!

We got lucky with our house. Searching for a place to live close to campus within a student’s price range can be hard, but because it was both furnished and a fantastic deal, we soon started calling it the ‘almost perfect’ house.

It was ‘almost perfect’ because, despite its spaciousness, backyard, furnishings and good décor, so many elements didn’t quite work. Here are a few examples:

  1. Our lawnmower came with a broken choke and to turn it off (as explained by the landlord) we had to turn it on its side (yes, exposing the blades) pull the fuel line and drown the engine in petrol
  2. Our sink tended to seize and lock-in the plug when we used it which was then impossible to get out
  3. We had ‘kamikaze’ down lights which would spontaneously fall out of the ceiling and smash
  4. Our oven had no markings on the dials which meant one had to cook using ‘trial and error’
  5. ‘Shocky’ the toaster, I think, speaks for itself

All it takes is one lightbulb moment and the next thing you know you've conceived an industry-changing start up!

These issues and more would pop up everywhere, it was ridiculous! Most people would appeal to the landlord or just replace these things themselves, but on our student budget? Yeah, right. Instead, the four of us just put our engineering hats on and set out to tackle these problems head on. It is pretty satisfying putting the skills we boast about on our resumes’ to use on a day to day basis. Sometimes it was as simple as disassembling the sink to remove a problematic part. At other times it wasn’t quite so easy. There was one particular occasion that involved a winch, a three square meter desk, the balcony and some ratchet straps…

Living with like-minded people with a varying array of skills certainly opens up new doors and opportunities. Although the stories related here are inherently domestic, I like to think of our home as the perfect a place to creatively employ ideas and skills on a daily basis. This environment is the perfect ‘idea incubator’ of sorts and who knows where that might lead. All it takes is one lightbulb moment and the next thing you know you’ve conceived an industry-changing start-up!

Coming through the front door each day we are consistently greeted by something new and more often than not, the question, “What on earth did you get up to today?”

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