Students Tackle Real-world Problems

Project-based learning is a cornerstone of the Alfred State culture. When students tackle real-world problems, they learn how to think, not what to think. They can also engage in meaningful civic engagement developing solutions to ongoing community challenges.

A recent example took place in Apalachin, NY, from March 11-16. Mark Payne, assistant professor, Heavy Equipment Operations, led a group of eight students during their spring break to engage in stream remediation. The team utilized heavy equipment such as bulldozers, excavators, wheel loaders, and an articulated truck to redirect the Apalachin Creek stream bed and create a berm that will better control any future flooding. The group invested long hours each day to ensure the work would be completed by the end of the week. Thankfully, all benefited by having Culinary Arts instructor, Brian Decker, prepare excellent meals on site to keep up the energy level and enthusiasm!

This trip was the fourth relief team Professor Payne has organized with the Heavy Equipment Club to assist this region of New York after the historic flooding from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee in 2011. The first team served in the Schoharie area to clear debris. The second team worked with the Owego-Apalachin school district to rehabilitate a drainage system to mitigate future flooding. The third team began the work on the Apalachin Creek as well as rehabilitated a local cemetery at the request of Senator Tom Libous’ office. This fourth team sought to move beyond cleanup to provide a solution at Apalachin Creek that would mitigate and redirect future floods from having such a devastating impact in the future.

This project was made possible not only through the initiative, expertise, and service of this team, but also through the collaboration and support of corporate, non-profit, and local/state government agency partners. Right down the road, Binghamton University again was a valuable partner by providing housing and parking options to the group throughout the week. Monroe Tractor donated the trucking of a bulldozer, excavator, wheel loader and an articulated dump truck to this project. And, LeChase Construction LLC working with ZMK Construction donated another bulldozer to the cause. Exaktime also donated time tracking software to allow the students to log and manage their time on the project. Finally, the team worked very closely with Tioga Soil County and Water and the Upper Susquehanna River Coalition to identify the need for stream remediation and develop a clear plan to fix this ongoing community challenge.

Students have taken on leadership roles gaining valuable experience in logistical organization, project planning, collaboration, and real world experience on heavy equipment. Local residents have expressed their appreciation that their property and lives are now safer through the efforts of this team. And, all stakeholders appreciate the value of coming together to develop solutions to local challenges. The expectation is that future efforts will continue to leverage these strong partnerships to create solutions in communities that continue to recover from the flood damage.

You can see a video that includes interviews and footage by visiting the following feature by Twin Tiers CW 2 or Fox 40 WICZ.

group of heavy equipment operations students during their spring break

Standing alone (green shirt):
Christopher Addison, Hamburg

Front, left to right:
Angel Cavanaugh, Whitesville; Cody Madigan, Bath; Kevin Nicoletti, Cochecton; Wayne Carroll, Jr., Bath; Michael Kashdin, Buffalo; and Mark Payne, associate professor, heavy equipment operations, Building Trades Department.