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Metal Fab students create a new debris grate for the Town of Milton

By Judy Bass

Two students from the Metal Fabrication program at Blue Hills Regional Technical School in Canton recently made a new debris grate which protects an important flood control dam from storm damage for the Town of Milton, saving taxpayers in that town money and acquiring valuable professional experience outside the classroom.

It's not unusual for the Metal Fabrication program at Blue Hills Regional to do projects for the school's district communities, which include Avon, Braintree, Canton, Dedham, Holbrook, Milton, Norwood, Randolph and Westwood.

"The Metal Fabrication program does a lot for our sending towns," said Lead Metal Fabrication Teacher Brian Gearty, "most recently, fabricating trash barrel protection cages for Highland Cemetery in Norwood. We also helped Norwood High School's Engineering team with a project. We are always available to work on projects that will help our students gain educationally-sound work habits."

"It's a win-win situation," Mr. Gearty continued. "The towns are able to save money and the school benefits by having our students work on real-world projects that they can be proud of and they learn many skills at the same time."

The Milton project that Blue Hills Regional students Jovan Gomes, a senior from Norwood, and sophomore Stephen McGrath, of Milton, worked on involved making a new storm debris grate to replace an aging, weather-beaten one at the Pine Tree Brook Dam. According to Joseph Lynch, Milton's Director of Public Works (DPW), this piece of equipment is crucial to preventing a flood that could potentially harm as many as one thousand nearby homes in a low-lying area of the brook.

"The grate is an important first line of defense to maintain the flow of Pine Tree Brook as it moves through a critical flood control dam," said Director Lynch. "If the dam were not to perform, the impact would be far-reaching, affecting as many as 1,000 houses downstream." He mentioned that things made of metal submerged in water deteriorate over time and need to be replaced.

The grate acts as a strainer for the front end of the dam, Director Lynch explained, preventing clogging from, for example, debris of any kind floating in the water.

Mr. Gearty said that the project came to Blue Hills Regional because of a quick-thinking student who ultimately worked on the grate himself.

Student Stephen McGrath got the process started when he inquired about helping out the Milton Department of Public Works. His father is employed by that department and was wondering if Blue Hills Regional could fabricate a new storm drain and weld it. This student's father came in during the school's Open House [in November 2016] with some pictures of what the DPW wanted to have done. Mr. Gearty told him the Blue Hills Regional Metal Fabrication students could do the job and scheduled it during a week when this student was in Metal Fab so he could be part of it.

Mr. Gearty said that the Town of Milton then delivered the rusted pieces of the old grate to Blue Hills Regional so the students could refer to them while they made the new one. Student Jovan Gomes also had a complete set of sketches and measurements from the old drain. He then made a more precise set of blueprints with exact dimensions that he and Stephen McGrath could work from. The students collaborated on a plan for how they would proceed, writing out each step from start to finish. They began by cutting the stock to exact lengths and tack-welded the entire project together for inspection by Mr. Gearty and, after obtaining his approval, they welded it.

He emphasized the value of projects like this one for his students. "They learned the importance of correctly measuring and cutting pieces to exact dimensions. They worked as a team and helped each other out. They used both trade-related theory lessons and practical hands-on technical lessons taught in class. Jovan has an above-average mechanical aptitude that enables him to perform assignments with creativity and efficiency."

Milton DPW Director Lynch was extremely pleased with the outcome. "I was thoroughly impressed," he said. "I was happy in every regard with the quality of the students' work, the strong, durable workmanship of what they made, and the short turnaround time [two weeks] they needed to complete the job."

He added appreciatively, "I would recommend that any town hire these guys."

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