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Engineering

Mount Sinai senior Damian Di Marco and Rocky Point senior Jade Pinkenburg show off certificates of congratulations from Brookhaven Town Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro after receiving $500 scholarships. Photo from Brookhaven Town

Brookhaven Town Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R) awarded two local seniors with $500 scholarships from the highway superintendents association.

Mount Sinai High School senior Damian DiMarco and Rocky Point High School senior Jade Pinkenburg were selected from dozens of applicants.

“While all of the applicants were admirable, I was extremely impressed with both Damian’s and Jade’s transcripts, including the challenging class schedules they sustain while maintaining exceptional grades,” Losquadro said. “Both possess creativity and curiosity — qualities which will be very helpful as they pursue careers in engineering.”

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Kids play on the equipment at Rocketship Park in Port Jefferson Village during its grand reopening event in June, following a renovation headed up by L.K. McLean Associates, which received an award for engineering excellence last week. File photo by Alex Petroski

By Alex Petroski

Residents of Port Jefferson Village have known for decades Rocketship Park is a special place, but now the engineering firm that handled its renovation has the hardware to prove it.

L.K. McLean Associates announced Jan. 3 it received the Diamond Award in the special projects category from the American Council of Engineering Companies of New York for its renovation of Clinton H. Lee Memorial Park in Port Jeff Village, or Rocketship Park as it’s commonly known. LKMA is a firm with licensed engineers, land surveyors and architects that has been serving the New York Metropolitan area since 1950, according to its website.

The ACEC of New York has hosted annually for more than 50 years its Engineering Excellence Gala — or the Academy Awards of the consulting engineering industry, as the organization’s website indicates. The event is the culmination of a selection process in which more than 60 firms submit projects to be judged on a rigorous set of criteria, including complexity, innovation and value to society. A panel of industry experts, including military and government officials, leadership from ACEC, educators from college and university engineering departments and others, judges the projects. Winners are selected based on the highest average scores in the various categories.

The Diamond Award is the highest level handed out by ACEC.

“As a parent, it was a rewarding experience to work with the village to renovate the park I grew up playing in,” said Chris Dwyer, an associate at LKMA and the project manager for the Rocketship Park renovations. “The park now gives kids of all ages and abilities the opportunity to play and enjoy such an iconic landmark. We are thrilled at such an honor by ACEC.”

The 4,000-square-foot playground was originally built in the 1970s. The idea to overhaul the footprint can be traced as far back as 2013, after vandals destroyed some of the previous equipment. In addition to extra security features, this prompted the village to look into repairs, according to a previous interview with former village trustee Adrienne Kessel. She is chair of the Treasure Your Parks campaign, a group which spearheaded the upgrade project.

“It began with a conversation about adding better lighting, but that wasn’t the answer,” she said. “When we went to fix the damaged pieces, we weren’t able to find them. The equipment was obsolete.”

Village Mayor Margot Garant said she was glad to hear the park would be recognized for its design.

“The recognition for Rocketship is really meaningful because not only is the park beautiful, it was done to allow inclusion for all children to have access,” she said. “So we made it bigger and more beautiful than even we could have imagined it. I am so pleased that everyday residents and visitors can continue to revisit and build their strong family memories at this beautiful family park.”

LKMA served as the sole engineering consultant and site surveyor, and proposed schematic site plans that were eventually developed and used.

“Equipment selection emphasized a meaningful play design, allowing children the opportunity to choose how they play, while seeing connections with play and choice,” LKMA’s announcement of the award said. “A ‘choose your own adventure’ engages children in the five elements essential to meaningful play: physical, cognitive, social, sensory and communicative. The site plan was arranged to maximize parental supervision with clean lines of sight from dispersed seating areas.”

The park has been under video surveillance since it reopened in June and Garant asked that all those who visit the park help ensure it remains clean, free of graffiti, vandalism and litter.

The total cost of the project was almost $900,000, with $500,000 coming from taxpayer dollars, $265,000 from a New York State parks grant and about $120,000 from donations, according to Barbara Sakovich, assistant to the mayor.

Brookhaven Town Highway Department offers funds to engineering majors

Brookhaven Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R) invites high school seniors to apply for one of two $500 Highway Superintendent’s Association scholarships. Applicants should submit a cover letter and high school transcript, with a 400-word maximum essay about why they plan to pursue a career in engineering. Applications should be submitted to kdandrea@brookhavenny.gov by Friday, Nov. 17.

Hundreds of residents gather at the Ward Melville Heritage Organization’s Educational & Cultural Center to learn about Serbian inventor Nikola Tesla. Photo by Kevin Redding

By Kevin Redding

More than 100 years after his great-grandfather designed and oversaw the construction of Nikola Tesla’s Wardenclyffe laboratory in Shoreham, Sebastian White, a renowned physicist and St. James native, filled a local lecture hall to discuss all things surrounding the Serbian-American inventor.

White, whose famous ancestor Stanford White’s architectural achievements include Washington Square Arch, the original Madison Square Garden and what is now the Tesla Science Center, took time out of his busy schedule as a particle physicist for CERN — the European Organization for Nuclear Research — to engage a roomful of science lovers Aug. 27.

The presentation was in conjunction with the center’s summer-long Tesla exhibit in Stony Brook and ended with a screening of clips from “Tower to the People,” a documentary made by a local filmmaker about the laboratory.

The physicist, and chairman of the Tesla Science Center’s Science Advisory Board, examined the litany of Tesla influences in modern-day technology and the late-19th century culture that helped shape his genius.

Dr. Sebastian White, the great-grandson of Nikola Tesla’s architect Stanford White, discuss the importance of inventor Nikola Tesla and his work. Photo by Kevin Redding

“Today it’s very clear that Tesla is trending in much of the science that’s showing up, such as wireless transmission of energy, which is a new field, and the Tesla car, but I think we shouldn’t only remember him for what he did, but also the incredible time in America he became part of,” White told the 130 residents packed into the lecture hall on the top floor at The Ward Melville Heritage Organization’s Educational & Cultural Center. “I think the story of Tesla, who many of my colleagues don’t even know, is an important one as it tells us how we got to where we are.”

White explained how Tesla’s grand vision for wireless transmission of energy, which eventually culminated in a torn-down tower on the Shoreham site in 1917, remains a much-pursued concept.

“There’s a very lively industry happening today, mostly because people keep forgetting to charge their iPhones and they want to find a way to do it without needing cords,” he said.

Through a process called energy harvesting, industry scientists are actively working on ways to charge cellphones while they sit inside pockets by capturing energy just from the environment.

“It’s an enormous field now — new companies are very interested in it and a lot is happening,” White said, pointing out other examples of wireless power transmissions over the years. “In 1964, on the Walter Cronkite TV show, a guy named William C. Brown demonstrated a model of an electric helicopter powered by a microwave. The United States, Canada and Japan have experimented with airplanes powered by radio waves. I would say, probably, if Tesla were around today, he’d be more happy about all the things people are inventing with new techniques rather than always quoting him and saying, ‘Well, Tesla said this.’”

White said Tesla’s emergence as one of the most influential scientific minds of all time coincided with what he referred to as “an incredibly important time” in the late 1800s, a period referred to as the American Renaissance.

Among the prolific figures with whom Tesla interacted were writer Mark Twain, physicist Ernest Rutherford, American businessman John Jacob Astor IV, and, of course, Stanford White. The physicist said a huge year for Tesla was 1892, when he lectured and demonstrated his experiments at the Institution for Electrical Engineers at the Royal Institution in London.

Residents eagerly listen and learn about the life of invetntor Nikola Tesla during a lecture. Photo by Kevin Redding

Speaking on his great-grandfather and Tesla’s friendship, which proved itself through many projects prior to Wardenclyffe, White referred to one particular exchange.

“Stanford White [once] invited Tesla to join him for an outing with William Astor Chanler, an explorer,” he recounted. “Tesla said, ‘I’m busy in the lab.’ White kept pushing him and then wrote to him, ‘I’m so delighted that you decided to tear yourself away from your laboratory. I would sooner have you on board than the Emperor of Germany or the Queen of England.’”

David Madigan, a Tesla Science Center board member, said after the lecture that having White’s perspective on this near-and-dear subject was integral.

“It’s important having Dr. White give the talk, who’s a physicist himself and whose grandfather was Stanford White, who was intimately involved in Tesla’s advancement of his many ideas both as an investor and also as an architect,” Madigan said. “It’s a good triangulation of today’s event, the Tesla exhibit, and Dr. White bringing in the scientific and family history.”

White said he has always felt a strong connection with his great-grandfather, who had a home in Smithtown, since he was  young.

“He was part of our life for sure,” he said. “We all felt very close to him. My son is an architect, my aunt and uncle were architects, my grandfather was an architect, and even continued in the same firm.”

East Setauket resident Michael Lubinsky said he was drawn to the lecture through a lifelong interest in Tesla.

“I always felt that Tesla was not appreciated that much in his time,” Lubinsky said, laughing that much of the lecture went over his head with its scientific terms.

Paul Scala, a software engineer living in Centereach, said he too gravitated to the event to explore more of Tesla’s story.

“I think [Dr. White] did a very nice job,” he said. “It’s very cool seeing that in the tech world they’re still trying to harness wireless energy.”

Martin Doherty presents traffic study findings to residents at a meeting about the heavily traveled Woodbury Road. Photo by Alex Petroski

Findings on a traffic study for the heavily traveled Woodbury Road fell short of some residents expectations Monday night, when engineers recommended against adding traffic signals or stop signs on the thoroughfare that connects Huntington and Cold Spring Harbor.

GEB HiRise, the Uniondale engineering firm that spent 10 months on the project, announced the results of their traffic study to about 60 residents at Huntington Town Hall, at a meeting sponsored by Councilwoman Susan Berland (D).

Martin Doherty, GEB HiRise senior traffic engineer, said the firm conducted the study over 10 days, laying rubber tubes across the road that tracked both the volume and speed of traffic.

Despite resident reports of dangerous traffic activity on the road, GEB HiRise recommended only minor changes.

Doherty said during his presentation that the maximum speed clocked on the road over the 10-day study was 76 mph, by a car passing by at night. For the bulk of drivers traveling on Woodbury Road during the study, the average speed was 44 mph.

The speed limit on the road is 30 mph.

Doherty said larger and more reflective signs; thicker lane markings; rumble strips in the double yellow lines in the center of the road; reduced speed limits in some areas from 30 to 25 mph; and narrower lanes in some areas were the most drastic changes GEB HiRise recommended. The firm also suggested adding permanent overhead radar detectors in some spots — the kind that tell drivers how fast they are going, in the hopes of making them aware of excessive speed.

The study results did not suggest adding stop signs or traffic signals to the road.

The study deemed stop signs to be an ineffective solution because they would increase the number of rear-end collisions and create heavy delays, according to Doherty.

“I’m almost at a loss because it’s a lot to take in,” Woodbury Road resident Marilyn McDermott said after the meeting Monday. “I had my own expectations coming in of what I thought would be helpful.”

McDermott started a petition last summer to have the traffic study done. Her driveway leads directly onto the thoroughfare. McDermott said she arranged for her child’s school bus driver to come up her driveway in the morning because the road is too dangerous for anyone to stand on while waiting for a bus.

“You hear the study say that it doesn’t call for [stop signs],” McDermott said. “It makes us take a deep breath and say, ‘OK if it’s not [warranted], then are we turning this into a highway?’ … None of us want to have that kind of a road.”

There were moments during the meeting when the crowd became audibly frustrated with some of Doherty’s recommendations.

“How many people have to die before we get some damn stop signs?” one resident called out before exiting the meeting. He said he feared his agitation would trigger an existing heart problem.

Residents said they believed many of the worst offenders driving on Woodbury Road are people who are trying to make it to the Cold Spring Harbor train station in time for a train.

Berland reiterated that the study simply made recommendations about improving conditions on the road. She collected note cards from residents who wanted to share their opinions, and plans to consider them before action is taken, she said.

“We’re going to collate all of that, put all of that together and then I’m going to sit with the supervisor and our director of traffic, go through everything and see where we go,” Berland said.

Residents voiced concerns with numerous aspects of the study. Some were unhappy that it was conducted over a span of only 10 days, while others said that some of the data collected would be skewed because drivers were aware of the fact that their speed was being tracked. Also, residents who live on side streets of Woodbury Road were frustrated that their difficulties in making turns onto the curved main road were not taken into account in the study.

Resident suggestions made during the meeting included asking the police department for an increased presence and adding speed cameras.

Mayer Horn, a Dix Hills resident and transportation engineering consultant, offered a different view.

“Let me stress one word,” Horn said. “It’s not enforcement. It’s not stop signs. It’s not signals. People who asked you for those things mean well, but they’re misguided. The key word is ‘compliance.’ That’s what we really want here.”

A pumped-up crowd in the Centereach High School gymnasium cheered, clapped and clamored to see which of the district’s elementary schools would come out victorious at Monday night’s STEM Celebration.

The evening marked the district’s first celebration of science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM. Hundreds of students, parents, teachers and administrators flooded the school to see students use their skills to build paper helicopters, newspaper tables and cup towers, and compete against each other to build a spaghetti tower. In addition, students from the district’s eight elementary schools presented their LEGO engineering creations to judges.

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District wants more emphasis on science, math

The Middle Country school district is moving forward with plans to redesign science and math offerings in the middle schools to provide students with an enhanced education in the subjects of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The three-year plan, which would begin in the 2014-15 school year, includes offering an additional math period every other day for seventh- and eighth-graders who are not taking living environment, and extended math offerings during the sixth-graders’ flex period.

“I think there will be a lot of support for it,” Deputy Superintendent for Instruction Francine McMahon said at a school board workshop on July 31. “There is more time for something we all feel is important.”

In order to make the change, band and orchestra will be offered every other day instead of daily, while health and home and careers classes, which are both required for middle school students, would be moved to sixth grade.

McMahon said the changes mark a major paradigm shift within the district, but it was important for class offerings like music to be maintained.

The change is suggested “not to destroy the music program, but yet to be able to maintain a quality program and at the same time increase the offerings that our youngsters would have in other areas so we end up with well-rounded students that perform well,” McMahon said.

According to McMahon, the program’s first year is projected to cost $598,000, as about nine additional staff members are needed, but the following school year, the district would save $104,000, as health classes will no longer be offered to seventh-graders as they would have already satisfied their health requirements.

By 2016-17 school year, McMahon said the district would be able to offer a science research lab, as declining enrollment at the elementary school-level would offset associated costs. Staff needed for the lab class would relocate to the middle school from the elementary school.

“We now have the ability because of the way we have reallocated and watched our funds to have a science research lab to be offered to all seventh- and eighth-grade and non-living environment students in grade eight for the first time,” McMahon said.

In addition to positively helping students, McMahon said the plan also acts as a professional development tool as seventh- and eighth-grade teachers will step in to assist sixth-grade teachers during flex periods when they aren’t teaching a double period of math to the seventh- and eighth-graders.

Superintendent Roberta Gerold said the plan would also help the district reach its long-term goal of requiring graduating seniors to complete a research project “that capitalizes on their interests, but uses the STEM underpinnings,” she said referring to science, technology, engineering and math courses.

While some board members raised concerns over the amount of available science lab space in the middle schools, Gerold said that because of declining enrollment, more space could become available.

“We didn’t want to stop the planning because we didn’t have the traditional lab space,” Gerold said.

Board of Education President Karen Lessler said she wouldn’t want the plans to be delayed either, but also asked her fellow board members to keep in mind of the need for lab space.

“We want to move to move through the obstacles,” she said.