December 12, 2008

Students Focus on Education to Address Easton’s Flooding Problems

Technology Clinic is working on exhibits and marketing for proposed flood museum

Students in this year’s Technology Clinic are working with the New York-based Nurture Nature Foundation to produce educational exhibits and a marketing plan for a proposed flood museum in Easton.

Tech Clinic is a hands-on course founded in 1986 that brings together students from different majors to help solve real-world problems of a business, non-profit organization, or government body. Another Tech Clinic class recently made final recommendations for environmental improvements to the West Ward.

  • Students Work to Improve Easton’s ‘Urban Ecology’

Through a grant and donations, NNF is renovating the former VFW building at 516 Northampton Street. The Flood Project of the Nurture Nature Center will be devoted to educating the public on the causes and effects of floods and how communities can work together to prevent flooding. NNF is a non profit corporation dedicated to resolving the worldwide conflict between environmental protection and economic sustainability through sustainable development.

The students have been working on a number of interactive exhibits and multimedia presentations designed to engage the Easton community and the College with issues surrounding floods.

“Flood education is extremely important, especially in the Easton community which lies on a floodplain at the confluence of two rivers and a sizable creek,” says Julia Sorkin ’09 (Whippany, N.J.), a double major in economics & business and psychology. “It is important for local residents to understand that flooding is a real hazard that can happen at any time, even in consecutive years. People need to be aware of the risks so that they can plan to protect themselves.”

One exhibit that is being developed is an interactive computer game which will teach the social and technical aspects of managing a flood control dam. The students are producing a documentary interviewing people who were affected by the 2004, 2005, and 2006 Easton floods, including business owners, local officials, rescue workers, and residents. Other ideas include: flood-and water-themed art exhibits and music, Geographical Information Systems (GIS) maps to display the water levels of Easton’s major floods, and a life-size “water wall” that uses water to show flood levels against different Easton landmarks.

“My classes in environmental engineering and geology have taught me why flooding occurs and how destructive floods can be. This has helped me to be a strong contributor to the team,” says civil engineering major Andrew Baldridge ’10 (Oreland, Pa.). “Working with students who have different perspectives on things due to their varying disciplines has been an educational experience in itself, allowing me to further understand the social significance of flooding and to approach problems in new, interesting ways.”

The team also is working on developing different marketing techniques for the museum. Some of these include: social events such as concerts, speakers, dinners, and art nights; organized sleepover programs and field trips for children; music and art contests; discounts for Lafayette students and faculty; and ticket bundles with the Crayola Factory and the National Canal Museum.

“I have never done a project for a real world client before,” says Baldridge, who intends to pursue a career in groundwater contaminant flow and remediation. “This isn’t about scores or grades. We were hired to come up with the best product that we possibly can. Our mid-project meeting with the Nurture Nature Foundation was especially interesting, as it gave me insight into the professional world and the importance of not only meeting, but exceeding the expectations of our client.”

Other students involved in the project are: anthropology and sociology major Amanda Berger ’09 (Parkland, Fla.), history major Sarah Reddan ’09 (Monroe Township, N.J.), biology major Julie Pollack ’11 (Scarsdale, N.Y.), and history and government and law major Mark Panny ’10 (West Cape May, N.J.). The faculty advisers are Dan Bauer, professor of anthropology and sociology, and Dru Germanoski, VanArtsdalen Professor and head of geology and environmental geosciences.

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