Students unveil bench design for new Sellwood Bridge

June 13, 2014


Student-design bench
The first prototype of a student-designed and built bench for new Sellwood Bridge.
Top row from left: Taylor Lehman, Jesse Martinez, Ethan Wells and Rebekah Fast. Front row from left: Commissioners Bailey, Shiprack, Chair Kafoury, Commissioners McKeel and Smith.

The new Sellwood Bridge will display four benches designed and built by students from the ACE Academy, a charter school in Portland’s Parkrose neighborhood.

A team of high school seniors unveiled the first prototype of the bench to the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners at their weekly meeting on Thursday, June 12.

The benches will be installed at four overlooks, creating a place for the public to stop and enjoy the view from both sides of the bridge.

ACE Academy is for juniors and seniors interested in a career in architecture, construction and engineering. Multnomah County’s school outreach program for the Sellwood Bridge project has worked with ACE students on several class projects since construction began in 2012.

Seniors Ethan Wells, Taylor Lehman, Rebekah Fast and Jesse Martinez explained their process of designing and building the bench to county commissioners.

District 2 Commissioner Loretta Smith was so impressed by their professionalism she asked, “I’m just wondering, are you sure you’re not college students?”

During the process they met with different teams and professional groups on the bridge project. The students made some changes to the original bench design developed by the project architect. This allowed the students to be resourceful and creative in their work.

The students used their math skills for scale drawing, belvedere (overlook) calculations, stress testing and wood comparison. They applied other skills for stress testing bench frames and joints and analyzing the types of welding and wood stains that would be best for the environment.

“I’m obviously proud of what they’ve done,” said ACE instructor Doug Mella, who supervised the project. “They stepped up. We’ve asked them to reach this high, and they reached that high.”

The students created a team web blog and website for updates, pictures and information about their project, and used timesheets to track their work hours and project costs..  

“I am deeply impressed, and I think I speak for a lot of people when I say that, you’ve taken something that we take for granted and made it elegant,” District 1 Commissioner Jules Bailey said. “I can see in your presentation the level of detail and cogency that in my years when working with contractors, I wish that I had seen.”

A new team of seniors will use the prototype to build the four permanent benches during the 2014-2015 school year. The benches will be in place when the new bridge opens in the fall of 2015.

“It means a lot,” Martinez said “it’s a really good feeling that I actually did something that’s going to be seen and recognized, it’s a really good feeling.”