In Engineering II, students are learning about the effects of flooding and natural disasters on houses, buildings and other structures. Their project started with a lesson on flooding and detailed information about Watu Island, a real island in the Maldives that faces a damaging flood season. The sophomores were then tasked with building a model house to withstand flooding on Watu Island. The finished product needed to be a one-level home with a modern roof design. To assess their designs, each house went through a series of tests to evaluate how their design would last in heavy rain and flood conditions.
The project came with certain restraints when it came to their target user, materials, budget and size. Each pair of students was given a “community card” that described one area of Watu Island to remind them of their target user as they were designing and building. The students were required to use materials that represented real-life materials. Students used balsa wood and popsicle sticks to represent hardwood, plasticine to represent concrete, foil and foil food trays to represent steel, and straws to represent bamboo. Each material had a specific cost associated with it, and students were given a budget of $1,000 to build their house. The model house also needed to utilize a chosen scale and could not exceed 8”x8”x8”.
Engineering faculty member Kayla Devosa explained, “Each year in engineering, we include projects that are reflective of what's going on in the world. This year there were many floods; even Hurricane Ian hit Florida as students were building their flood-proof homes. The goal [of this project] was to create a prototype that accurately represents a viable, low-cost housing solution for Watu Island.”
Once the model houses were complete, they needed to be tested in a simulation of weather events associated with flooding. The first test simulated rainfall, the second test simulated flooding on flat land and the third test simulated flooding if the house was on a hill. Each pair of students recorded their findings from testing. Depending on their results, they wrote a summary of how they would redesign their house if they were to complete this project again. This project presented a problem relevant to current events happening around the world, and the sophomores could see the real-life application of these flood-proof houses in areas in danger of flooding.