Students learn engineering skills on Atlantic City Boardwalk
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — The northern portion of the city’s iconic boardwalk is peaceful and rarely makes headlines.
Except when it did in late 2012.
Newspapers and television stations broadcast the images of waves crashing through and ripping to shreds the Boardwalk here as Superstorm Sandy slammed New Jersey’s coast.
Now, the boardwalk here has been rebuilt and reinforced to withstand the next 100 years, Keith Watson from the US Army Corps of Engineers, Philadelphia District, told about 50 students from the Attales Middle School in Absecon Thursday.
The students were selected to visit the new Boardwalk by the school’s STEAM teacher Chris Filicello after creating their own models based on engineering skills they learned in class.
STEAM is a common acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math and has become a prominent feature of education in New Jersey. Watson said the Philadelphia District of the US Army Corps supports student STEAM initiatives and applauded what Absecon was doing with its program.
Absecon superintendent Dan Dooley said the purpose of education is to prepare students for the future, but doing just that is not going to set them apart. He said programs like the STEAM class are.
“That’s what going to make us successful in college and a 21st century, global economy,” Dooley said.
Filicello, who had first-hand experience in the rebuilding of the South Inlet section of the Atlantic City Boardwalk as chief of staff at the time to then-Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian, said the current project was a way to connect what the students learn in class to the real world.
“I think it opens their eyes to the possibilities of what an engineering career can do and how engineers improve people’s lives every day,” he said.
Students in fifth through eighth grade researched, designed and built their own models with sticks and other materials, each giving an explanation of how their design would work to protect the boardwalk and the buildings in the south Absecon Inlet.
One group of students even designed a project very similar to the solution developed by US Army Corps of Engineers for Atlantic City.
On Thursday, the students met at the Flagship resort with Watson, the project manager for the Absecon Island project, as well as Gigi Geissele, the lead design engineer, and Steve Rochette, public affairs officer, to learn more about how the Army Corps developed its solution for Atlantic City.
“The engineering is only part of a real world solution,” Watson told the students. He said that they also have to take into consideration many other factors like cost, making it aesthetically pleasing and abiding by current building laws.
“There’s a lot of things that would work,” Watson said, but only a few that would fit into the parameters of the project.
The engineers ended up building a rock seawall structure to break up the force of the waves and prevent flooding.
Watson said even before Sandy, the boardwalk in the South Inlet area was damaged by numerous nor’easters and hurricanes over the decades.
“Sandy hit and took it out, so there was no more Boardwalk,” he said.
The federal government authorized emergency funding in 2013 and the Boardwalk reconstruction project was completed in April 2018.
Filicello, who became a teacher through the alternate route after leaving politics, said he sees opportunities in every community and in everyday products to connect students to science and engineering.
“Technology is something invented or innovated to solve a problem,” he said.
Information from: The Press of Atlantic City (N.J.), http://www.pressofatlanticcity.com