On May 15, Harford Community College engineering students conducted a demonstration of two hurricane-resistant house scale models that they constructed for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Dr. Dianna G. Phillips, president of Harford Community College; James W. McCauley, Ph.D., Harford Community College Board of Trustees member; and Dr. Pamela Pape-Lindstrom, HCC’s dean of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM), attended the demonstration and mingled with the students, questioning them about the project.

Shawn Webster, P.E., a structural engineer with STARR II, contacted the college earlier this year to ask if HCC students would be interested in participating in a DAWG HAUS (Disaster Avoidance With Good Home Attenuating Unionization System) pilot model housebuilding project for FEMA. Students in “Mechanics of Materials,” a course that presents the fundamentals of strength and deformation of various materials, were selected as the class which would derive the greatest benefit from the experience.

The course explores the various ways objects can fail and how to calculate maximum loads before failure — important information for designing. By constructing the model, the 14 students involved gained hands-on experience and learned how the design process could help prevent someone’s home from being destroyed in a natural disaster.

Two teams of students constructed the hurricane-resistant models. Webster, who supervised work on the project, answered students’ questions regarding design and the reasoning behind the features. One student’s background in particular, Jason Liddic, was helpful in the success of the project as he had construction experience and acted as site supervisor.

Lisa Ovelman, STEM assistant professor, who teaches the course, said, “The students did an excellent job with this hands-on project. They worked well together as a team and adapted quickly to the many changes required to complete it — important skills that are required in the field of engineering.”

“HCC has a great engineering program, and I appreciate the students’ assistance. The models that the students built are critical in providing mitigation education to disaster prone areas. I am grateful to HCC and hope to work with them in the future,” Webster said.

The finalized models will be shared with institutions around the country to increase design and construction awareness of mitigation techniques for high wind areas.

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