Alief ISD STEM Academy Students Innovate Reservoir/ Dam Systems in the Wake of Hurricane Harvey during the Day of Design
Written by Karen D. Jacobs, Ph.D., Secondary Science and STEM Coordinator, Alief ISD
It’s Friday October 6, 2017 and the 7th and 8th grade STEM students at Killough Middle School, which is one of two strong arms of the middle school STEM program located in the Alief Independent School District, in Houston, Texas are designing, constructing, testing, and rebuilding improved models of reservoir/ dam systems during STEMConnector’s first ever Day of Design after Hurricane Harvey ravaged the homes, schools, and businesses of many of their loved ones. Located in Southwest Houston, Alief ISD is the epicenter of the International District housing over 47,000 students from eighty-four different nationalities.
These students lived through the ravages of the category 4 storm with winds over 130 mph and left their city of 6.6 million people in ruins. While being immersed with the fall out of Hurricane Harvey which left Houston, soaked with 51.88 inches of rainfall, 203,000 damaged homes, 39,000 people homeless, 1 million vehicles destroyed, $180 billion dollars in damage, and 82 people dead, Killough Middle STEM students witnessed the release of two reservoirs/ dams (Addicks and Barker) by emergency planners and the mayor’s office in order to prevent massive flooding of a city already saturated with unprecedented levels of stagnant rainwater. This reservoir release by the Army Corps of Engineers damaged an additional 3,000 homes.
Students were ready to get back to school to test out their ideas to help prevent future flooding, especially in low lying areas close to reservoirs, after hurricanes. With the help of their principal Bert Bilton, Assistant Principal Tracy Perkins, campus STEM Coordinator Errol Larkins, and science teachers Lauren Mitchell and David Head, an intensive instructional plan was put into action to help their students design solutions. With the support of JASON Learning, a strongly developed STEM curricula sponsored by Chevron that connects students to scientists and the assistance of STEM powerhouse STEMConnector, students are preparing their designs using JASON Learning’s “Water Warriors” lesson plan and Wetlands’ curriculum lab “Engineer a Dam” and the National Academy of Science Koshland’s Museum’s Extreme Event Game to assist students in making meaningful connections with their real life experience.
Ready… Set… Go… Stay tuned to learn more about Killough Middle School’s STEM PBL on Water Warriors: Communities Fighting Flood with STEM –Operation: Resilience. Killough Middle School’s STEM Academy students are extremely excited and ready to change how we respond as a community during catastrophic events!