April 26, 2012

Four Portland high school students maneuvered levers on a replica model of the Sellwood Bridge on Thursday, April 26 to show the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners how the replacement will occur.

The students are part of Northeast Portland’s ACE Academy, a shared-time, charter school with a project-based curriculum for students interested in careers in architecture, construction and engineering. Valerie Cecchini, Joshua Coon, Logan Evans and Ryan Kennell joined school instructor Marjan Rotting at the presentation.

Students began their work in the fall as part of the Sellwood Bridge project’s school-based outreach program, which uses the span as an educational opportunity for local K-12 students. Three of the ACE students attend other high schools part time, including Evans (Parkrose), Cecchini (Centennial) and Kennell (Sam Barlow). Coon attends ACE full time.

Students at four schools are studying the new bridge, which will replace the original built in 1925. The project, funded by Multnomah County, the city of Portland, the Oregon Department of Transportation and the U.S. Department of Transportation is expected to be completed in early 2016.

The group, made up of seniors, participated in all aspects of the bridge concept, including design, construction and budgeting. They solicited businesses for donations and scoured the Web for coupons to art stores in order to meet their $300 budget. The final product: a six-foot model featuring the Willamette River and the two moveable spans running parallel to one another.

Along the way, the students received guidance from their teachers and consulted with the bridge’s actual engineers and contractors.

“It really taught me what the real world in engineering will be like,” Cecchini said. “We’re learning what they do in their daily careers.”

After the presentation, commissioners lauded the students for their hard work.

“I think we all give you an A+,” Commissioner Deborah Kafoury said.