Kennelly School Students Imagining Ways To Help Puerto Rico

A middle school project is personal for students with family in Puerto Rico.

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Rocked repeatedly by earthquakes since the new year and still recovering from Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico has been on the minds of many, including several Hartford Middle School students.

“We’re trying to solve, how can we build infrastructures that could withstand earthquakes and save people,” said Alex Alamo a seventh-grade student at Hartford’s Kennelly School.

Alamo and his fellow classmates, many with family in Puerto Rico, are conceptualizing structures that could potentially protect against natural disasters.

Pointing to a colorful illustration of a three-story building that stands below the earth’s surface, Lilliana Harris, is proud.

“The house is all underground so if a hurricane or tsunami or anything like that comes, the house would be safe,” she said.

Ny’isha Benford has a different idea. Her structure has ground reinforcements to keep the building from swaying.

“We decided to put an anchor in the building,” she said.

The project was created by Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) teacher, Ashley Bonet. She says bringing a real-world challenge into the classroom has the students excited and engaged.

“Any free time that they get they’re on the computer,” said Bonet. “They’re looking up different structures. They’re looking up earthquakes that have happened in the past. They’re looking up the history of Puerto Rico.”

The designs include everything from reinforced walls, foundation and roofs, to concepts that are a little more futuristic. Like D’asia Hill’s concept, called “The Shock Absorber.”

“The Shock Absorber absorbs an earthquake’s vibration and uses the vibration to protect the building or house. Like a force field,” explained Hill.

So, at a school where the motto is, “be the change,” they are trying to do just that.

“There was a lot of earthquakes happening (in Puerto Rico) and I think this was a good idea for us to design ways that we could help them,” said Harris.

While the project is only in the drawing stage, Ms. Bonet says the ultimate goal is to build three-dimensional renderings of these designs, something the students plan to do this spring.

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