Archive for the ‘Greenvale’ Tag

STEM Education and Building the New Bridge

Rebar sample is much heavier than it looks/NNYB Outreach

Eastchester parent Beryn Corham’s son came home excited from school. “He couldn’t wait to tell me what happened that day at assembly,” she says. And teachers are thrilled too. According to Westchester teachers, nothing makes a kid’s eyes open wider than holding a piece of rebar (reinforcing steel) like that used in the new Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge or a strand from one of the stay cables that support the main span roadway.

Educational Outreach

Magic definitely happens when the New NY Bridge Project’s educational outreach team brings the state’s largest infrastructure into classrooms. During the past five years, the team has visited more than 60,000 students in the tri-state region and made hundreds of presentations to Westchester students, providing opportunities to see and feel construction materials and safety equipment and get them thinking about STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields.

Each year the educational outreach program focused on specific aspects of the project.

• Year One (2013-14): Discovery/Geo-tech of the Hudson River
• Year Two (2014-15): Building a Strong Foundation
• Year Three (2015-16): Teamwork and Innovation
• Year Four (2016-17): Bridge Rising

“Looking back, whether it was explaining bridges to a kindergartener or answering complex questions from a high schooler, the real joy was seeing students make the connection between information and understanding,” Public Outreach Coordinator Andrew P. O’Rourke, Jr., says.

With Groups and Clubs

The New NY Bridge Project’s educational outreach team can tailor presentations to specific groups and clubs as they did at the WizGirls conference hosted by American Association of University Woman Westchester (AAUW) that encourages girls to explore engineering and computer science.

NNYB Project Director Jamey Barbas and WizGirls/NYSTA

“WizGirls is an offshoot of AAUW Westchester’s Explore Your Opportunities conference for seventh-graders at the College of Mount St. Vincent in Riverdale that explores all four STEM fields,” program leader Diona Koerner says.

Female scientists lead hands-on workshops and serve as role models for the students. “We chose this [age] group to attract the girls early when they’re still interested, and they’re excited about it,” Koerner continues. “Last year we had a huge response.”

New NY Bridge Project Director Jamey Barbas explained tension and compression to a group of sixth- and seventh-grade girls during a fall 2016 WizGirls conference, after which they applied their new knowledge by assembling mini LEGO® bridges. “Events like [these] are unique opportunities to bring awareness to young women of careers in engineering,” she says.

Combining Fun and Education

During the project’s early years, White Plains Public Library (WPPL) had a Build With K’NEX! program, in which kids built models of the I Lift NY super crane and the new bridge with the colorful plastic pieces.

“It’s an opportunity for kids, while they’re doing something fun, to gain math and engineering skills, to learn how things fit together – shapes, sizes,” says former WPPL children’s librarian Terry Rabideau. “It’s an opportunity to have fun and be creative.”

When the bridge’s main span towers were being built, the project’s Tarrytown and Nyack Outreach Centers added a mini tower crane challenge: participants had to place the tiny construction crew member on a target below using the crane’s controls.

Dan Marcy, who leads presentations with O’Rourke, notes, “Educators are often looking for real-world applications for what they teach in the classroom. Over the years, it has been remarkable to witness how enthusiastic students have been about this project and how they’ve embraced complicated engineering principles, construction components and problem solving.”

Excitement About Local STEM Events

“Learning doesn’t take place in a bubble, and the various components of STEM overlap,” Chairperson and President of STEM Alliance of Larchmont-Mamaroneck, Meg Käufer, explains.

Julpiter Joe’s Astronomy activity allows kids to control a robtic arm at Larchmont’s Hommocks Middle School STEM event. Photo Credit: Alison Mäertins, 2018

The Alliance’s annual festival at Hommocks Middle School in March drew more than 1,200 kids, teens and adults into three hours of fun and learning. Throughout the free Friday night event, attendees could choose activity stations and pre-registration workshops with STEM challenges including a physics lesson in bridge building from O’Rourke, plus marshmallow launchers and a chess master playing multiple games at once.

The annual Lower Hudson Valley Engineering Expo, which held its 15th Expo on April 15, brings more than 100 engineering firms, engineering colleges and public agencies together to introduce students to engineering and technology careers, according to McLaren Engineering Group President and CEO Malcolm G. McLaren, PE.

This West Nyack-based firm is a major benefactor and organizer of the event that incorporates numerous engineering fields whereas it once focused primarily on civil engineering, according to McLaren.

Attendance has grown, attracting students, colleges and corporations from a large geographic area. One typical and interesting observation was of a student who, initially hesitant to walk through the door, became so absorbed he was reluctant to leave when his mother called to him.

In the Classroom

More than 200 students attended Heathcote School’s March HExpo workshops. “It was hands-on, daylong and feedback was positive,” fifth-grade teacher Christine Boyer says. “The kids loved it and saw it as having fun, digging deeper and learning.” When they were using screwdrivers to take appliances apart, “the wheels were turning, and the learning was happening.”

Teamwork building a LEGO® bridge/C Boyer

“One of the greatest joys was seeing students’ eyes light up after answering their questions because it unlocked the door to knowledge, ignited their curiosity and gave them a personal connection to the project as they watched history rising in their own backyards,” says O’Rourke who participated in the event.

In the STEM program that Claremont Elementary School teacher Micki Lockwood designed for her third- and fourth-grade students at Ossining Union Free School District, the younger grade studies electricity, and the older one studies bridges.

Samantha, a Claremont student, loves stem “because I get to experience science, technology, and engineering and math projects at a very young age,” while her classmate Sienna enjoys the variety of activities. “We have a chance to ask questions, imagine and plan and then we create things and talk about how we can improve them.”

Lockwood’s students used K’NEX and LEGO® bricks to study and build bridges with a special emphasis on the new bridge. “We spent a lot of time focusing on cable-stayed bridges since this amazing project is happening one town away from us,” Lockwood says.

Combining Imagination and Concepts

Technology teacher Anthony Rich introduced 3D design to his students at Greenvale and Anne Hutchinson Schools in the Eastchester Union Free School District by using a web-based program called TinkerCAD about three years ago.

“The fourth- and fifth-graders get a half-year of Coding with a program called Scratch and a half-year of 3D design and printing,” Rich explains. While the older children create their own designs, the younger students are learning program basics and concepts.

Ducky, a fourth-grade student at Anne Hutchinson School in Eastchester, likes 3D printing “because I can create anything I can imagine and I can invent and print new things. It lets you have the ability to imagine, plan, then build anything you want.”
Käufer sums it up nicely. “STEM is important because it gets kids thinking in new ways and changes their thought processes. There’s no minor league for STEM.”

Night before new bridge’s westbound span opened/NYSTA

A Work of Art!

ArtsWestchester celebrated the new bridge as a work of art at its gala 2017 fundraiser last November as CEO Janet Langsam feels STEAM education (adding the arts to STEM) is crucial to educating the next generation of creative thinkers. “Art increases motivation, enhances communication and expression and, like science, it helps inspire innovation and critical thinking,” she says.

For information about outreach presentations, contact Andy O’Rourke at or 845-918-2516 or visit

My article was originally published in the May 2018 issue of Westchester Family.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2018

Fourth Graders Amazed by Bridge Presentation

old and new artStudents at Greenvale and Anne Hutchinson schools gave the state’s most talked-about infrastructure project high marks after the New NY Bridge outreach team visited their schools last week.

“I want to know if any of you travel across the Tappan Zee Bridge,” Greenvale principal Darrell Stinchcomb asked. “Yessss,” the 4th grade replied in unison.

STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, math) education is integrated into the curriculum. The “Teamwork and Innovation” presentation showed them where career paths might lead.

“There are a lot of things going on with the bridge, which is a major project,” Stinchcomb said. “This is an exciting time, and we’re right in the heart of it.”

Greenvale principal Darrell Stinchcomb tells 4th-grade classes the new bridge is part of the area’s history/NYSTA

Greenvale principal Darrell Stinchcomb tells 4th-grade classes the new bridge is part of the area’s history/NYSTA

Many kids nodded when he said the project will be written into future Disney books and social studies books. They know what the bridge is, and they’ve driven across it with their parents and had appreciative words and insightful questions.

No sooner did presenter Dan Marcy begin talking than one student raised his hand. “Where is the longest bridge in the world?” he asked.

Marcy suggested it might be found in China or Japan. No stumping the pros; it’s the Danyang–Kunshan Grand Bridge in China, part of the Beijing-Shanghai High-Speed Railway, and is 102.4 miles long, At 34 miles long, the six-lane Bang Na expressway in Thailand is the world’s longest road bridge.

Some students in Kati Curry’s class at Anne Hutchinson shared their thoughts.

“The assembly was amazing because they gave a lot of details about how everything works with the bridge.” — Elena D.

Kids’ attention was fixed on the most recent “Project Progress 2015: Two Years Work in Two Minutes,” which Celia C. liked. ‘It was a great assembly because we got updated,” she said.

falcon feedingOf importance to Chigozie E were measures in place for protecting the Atlantic and shortnose sturgeon and the oyster relocation program during pile driving and construction. A photo of three Peregrine falcon chicks born last year drew “Awwws” from the kids. We hear the new chick born last month now has a name.

Ava B. was happy to hear construction crews “are planning to make the bridge safe in disasters,” referring to its sturdy foundations and seismic isolation bearings — to isolate it from the next 2,500-year earthquake — as the current bridge sits atop a fault line.

“The lower part of the bridge and the foundations would move, while the upper portion of the bridge containing the road deck and vehicles would stay stationary,” Marcy said.

“I think it was amazing that as they’re the building the bridge, they are thinking of people’s safety.” — Julia T.

Marcy explained about lanes and shoulders on the road and how the current bridge has no place for a car to pull over in an emergency.

Sections of 6’ and 4’ pilings, used for the new bridge’s foundation, at the Outreach Centers/© Janie Rosman 2016

Sections of 6’ and 4’ pilings, used for the new bridge’s foundation, at the Outreach Centers/© Janie Rosman 2016

“The southern span will be 87 feet wide, the width of the current bridge, and the northern span will be even wider at 96 feet and will have the new walking path,” he said. “Next year in 2017 or at the end of your school year, we’re going to be shifting traffic onto the new northern span.” Once that span is finished, southbound traffic will shift back to the second span, and the walking path will open in 2018.

Hearing they can take their bicycles and scooters on the path brought smiles.

Several students had questions after hearing about building information modeling (BIM) technology that enables designers to see the project virtually: which piece will need to be replaced, its length and where to place it.

Dramatic lighting can be programmed remotely/NYSTA

Dramatic lighting can be programmed remotely/NYSTA

Hailey M. was fascinated by the possibilities of LED lighting in different colors for sport teams or holidays like the Fourth of July. Its 2,700 color lights and 500 white lights are from Philips Lighting, the same company that brightens Madison Square Garden.

More than 5,000 people have worked on the bridge since the project began. Several crew members — a dock builder, a main span superintendent, a carpenter, a crew boat captain, an environmental inspector, a concrete plant foreman, and a crane operator — described their jobs in the video “Building a Landmark.”

“It was nice how they came in and talked about the structure and the materials that they used to create the bridge.” — Michelle T.

Stinchcomb is right: this is an exciting time for the Hudson Valley, the state and for students and educators as the project progresses during the next two years. Corresponding education modules are “Bridge Rising” for year four and “Bridging the Future—Class of 2018” for year five.

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2016

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