Now in its second year, the New NY Bridge Educational Outreach Program continues to engage students of all ages in Westchester, Rockland and beyond. The program reflects Governor Andrew Cuomo’s goal of using the state’s largest infrastructure project to educate tomorrow’s professionals. This year, the team is focusing on the ‘how-it-works’ engineering behind the new bridge’s foundations.
The project kicked off the 2014-2015 academic year with interactive presentations at Cottage Lane Elementary School in Blauvelt and Highlands Middle School in White Plains. Special Advisor to the Governor Brian Conybeare led both sessions, which comprised of over 750 students.
Tom Hauser, a technology education teacher at the middle school, observed that educators are “always striving to make real-world connections to our lessons. Given the scope of the new bridge, the direct impact on our students’ lives and the proximity to our school, we feel this is a great opportunity to make one of those connections.”
This year’s presentation opens with the basics of the project: why the replacement crossing is needed, how it will improve New Yorkers’ quality of life, and how construction is being phased and the overall schedule.
The focus then turns to the strength and mechanics of the new structure: the primary building materials used to construct the bridge’s foundations – steel and concrete – and the interconnection between the two.
Animations take students through a step-by-step explanation of how the bridge piles are installed, followed by the pile caps, piers and towers, and beyond.
Students also learn about the project’s extensive and proactive efforts to safeguard the natural environment, including actions to protect endangered sturgeon and rare peregrine falcons. The project’s provision of a falcon nest box and its 24/7 “falcon-cam” are major points of interest to students.
The team uses vivid, easy-to-understand images and videos to help students grasp both the complexity and magnitude of the project. Also very popular are samples of rebar, the steel that is used to reinforce the concrete in the new bridge, that students can touch and hold that shows just how unique the elements of the New NY Bridge are. Questions are always encouraged to foster students’ engagement and understanding.
The outreach team’s information is intended to complement students’ school work. For example, each student in Hauser’s Introduction to Engineering class at Highlands Middle School is required to design and build a model bridge of his or her own. The real-world example of the New NY Bridge project is helping to inspire the designs of Hauser’s students, which are tested for design efficiency and weight capacity.
The New NY Bridge educational initiative is intended to spur young women and men to consider science, technology, engineering and math as educational and career paths. Just as builders of landmark projects such as the Verrazano-Narrows and Robert F. Kennedy (formerly Triborough) bridges helped shape the New York City area during the 20th century, today’s New NY Bridge builders are doing much the same with the new river crossing, and tomorrow’s engineers will someday help mold the future of New York with their work.