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Students challenged to engineer accessibility at Canatara bandshell

Tyler Kula
Published on: November 16, 2019

About six teams of local high school students are participating in an engineering design challenge to improve accessibility at the Canatara Park bandshell. One of the teams, all twelfth graders at St. Patrick’s high school, includes Ivan Lange, (front left) Juliette Rossi, Lily Taylor, and Josh Allen. They’re pictured at the bandshell with their engineer mentor for the challenge Brooke Wilson (back left), Professional Engineers of Ontario Lambton Chapter representative Jennifer Ladanchuk, and the City of Sarnia’s manager of recreation and planning Ryan Chamney. Tyler Kula/Sarnia Observer/Postmedia Network

Local high school students are testing their engineering design chops to see who can come up with the best idea to improve accessibility at Canatara Park’s bandshell.

A half-dozen teams comprised of about 30 students signed up for this year’s High School Engineering Design Challenge with the Professional Engineers of Ontario (PEO) Lambton Chapter.

The chapter, reviving the challenge after a several years, said spokesperson Jennifer Ladanchuk, approached the city with the idea, to give students participating in the challenge the chance to have a meaningful impact.

The winning team’s design could be brought to life at the bandshell, said Ryan Chamney, the city’s manager of recreation and planning.

Between $50,000 and $60,000 for the project is being budgeted, pending council approval, he said.

“We’re excited to see their ideas and their concepts, and ultimately (for) one of them come to fruition,” he said.

Each team is matched with a local professional engineer to mentor them through the process, and there are monthly meetings to talk about progress and different aspects of design and project development, Ladanchuk said.

“The city’s willingness to even consider their designs just takes it up to the next level,” she said. “It’s pretty cool.”

Judging will likely be in late March, in council chambers, she said, adding hopes are to have that open to the public. City staff and local engineers will select the winning team.

One of the most pressing issues at the bandshell is there’s no way for someone in a wheelchair, or in a walker, to traverse the sand, said Dale Mosley, accessibility coordinator with the city.

Seating is another area that needs tackling, he said, noting the project area includes the bandshell and its surroundings, including a nearby pavilion.

“We want people to be able to enjoy anything that happens there,” he said. “This will help.”

An accessible playground, meanwhile, is already being installed nearby, and there’s an accessible change area and washroom facility already at the adjacent beach, he said.

“So it just makes sense that the bandshell becomes accessible now too.”

The project was revealed to students at a launch event earlier this month.

“You could sense some genuine interest and excitement for this project,” Chamney said.

And this could be the start of an annual event, Mosley said, calling it a great initiative.

“We’re hoping to do this for years to come as well, on other projects,” he said. “This is just the first one.”

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