Shanahan Middle School teachers asked students to design and build a model house that could withstand the forces of a natural disaster.
“They had to stay dry in the rain and be able to withstand a storm surge,” said Kim Nichols, English teacher. “Most of them are staying dry.”
Each house contained a color paper strip that changed color when wet. Passing the test meant the strip had to stay dry during a heavy rain storm. The rain was simulated with a heavy spray from a garden hose.
Nichols said the idea of designing the houses came about when Shanahan Middle School partnered with the Delaware County Library for Delaware County Community Read. Students were to read a graphic novel about Hurricane Katrina titled Drown City.
“They got a lot of background information about what a storm surge could look like from that book,” Nichols said.
In order to gain a better understanding of the types of natural disasters in Delaware County, a field trip was arranged to the Emergency Management Agency, where they got a chance to hear from first responders.
Stephanie Schneemann, social studies teacher, said the field trip was helpful to the kids when designing their houses.
“We saw a lot of house designs that use some of the ideas that Mr. Sean Miller (the EMA director) mentioned about putting the houses on stilts,” she said. “The kids took that and ran with it.”
Students were placed in teams with each person having a specific job in designing and building a model house.
Teacher Adam Savage said about 50 percent of the houses did stay dry inside.
“I think the main concern is the doors — they’re not sealing the doors off well enough,” Savage said.
Savage said once they got back into the classroom, the teams could evaluate their designs and look at improvements.
Matthew Hall said his job was to make a video about the house and its features. He said he thought his team’s house did well in the rain test.
“I think it did pretty well because it held up during the rain test,” Hall said. “The color strip didn’t get wet from all the water. It passed the test.”
According to Kira Bretzinger, accountant for the team, the model didn’t have to be built with building materials.
“We didn’t have to buy anything specific,” Bretzinger said. “We bought cardboard because we thought it would be the sturdiest.”
Bretzinger said teams were given a budget of $30,000 for construction, and her team came in under budget by $5,000.
Payton Boerner, team engineer, said the team based their design on a beach house with stilts and a pointed roof to help keep it dry inside. She said she thought the chances of the house surviving were good.
Project manager Nick Biehl said his job was making sure everyone did their part.
D. Anthony Botkin may be reached at 740-413-0902 or on Twitter @dabotkin.