It was the moment of truth. Students from South Florida high schools anxiously watched Zoom live streams to determine whether their models of flat rooftops would stand up against 70 mph winds at FIU’s NHERI Wall of Wind (WOW) Experimental Facility.

Every year, FIU hosts its Wall of Wind Mitigation Challenge, in which teams of local high school students develop innovative wind mitigation concepts and solutions within guidelines set by FIU’s wind engineers. The objective of the 2021 challenge was for students to design a way to reduce the impact of wind scour – the process of wind scraping against surfaces – on a building’s flat roof. Each team had to develop a solution to prevent roof gravel from blowing away during testing.

salna_shot_1.jpgThe challenge is usually an on-site competition at FIU’s College of Engineering and Computing, but due to COVID-19, the five student teams competed virtually this year. The teams prepared three components for the competition: a physical test of their rooftop model, an oral presentation and a written technical paper. Through the challenge, students developed problem solving and team building skills while engaging in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, architectural design and business entrepreneurship.

The competition also inspired students to pursue STEM education and step up as the next generation of leaders facing natural hazards and extreme weather.

“The Wall of Wind Challenge offered me an opportunity to gain insight in the field of wind engineering which has sparked an interest that I did not know I had,” said Jenna Silvera, a junior at Miami Coral Park Senior High School. “This challenge has become a memorable learning experience that I hope to carry on in the future.”

Erik Salna is the associate director for education and outreach at the Extreme Events Institute. In this piece, Salna shares a one-of-a-kind competition that challenges students to create innovative solutions for community resilience.

Read more at FIU News.