Written by BILL SCHANEN IV
Wednesday, 18 June 2014 18:33
Robotics club offers to fix, engineer, make items for the public with high-tech tools
The Port Washington High School PiraTech robotics club has opened up shop for the summer and is standing by to fix, engineer and manufacture everything from lawn mower parts to patio furniture.
PiraTech Manufacturing is a summer school class that sounds like a business, and aside from the fact it can’t charge for its services, it will operate like a lot like one.
“If people need anything fixed or built, they can have students design it, then manufacture it,” said Taylor Last, a teacher in the Port High technology education department who is overseeing the summer program. “People may have a broken lawn mower bracket that needs welding, but how many people have welding equipment? We do.
“I know a lot of people who tinker in their garage but get stuck when they need a certain part like a flange and have no way to make it. We have a full machine shop.
“Or maybe someone wants a piece of outdoor patio furniture, like an end table. We can design and build it in our wood shop.”
The summer school class grew out of the desire to give members of the robotics club more design, engineering and manufacturing experience. By offering their services to the public, students can apply their skills to “real-world” projects while providing a service to the community, Last said.
“We’re looking for projects,” he said. At students’ disposal is all the equipment needed for most jobs — computer-aided design equipment and a 3-D printer, welders, a laser engraver and CNC (computer numerical control) machine.
“We’re trying to find more opportunities for robotics club members to design and produce actual products,” Last said.
Last will be the first contact for “customers,” but after that he wants students to take over and see the projects through from beginning to end.
PiraTech Manufacturing can’t charge for its services because it is a summer school class, Last said, “but we are more than willing to accept donations, and we may try to give people an idea of what the work would cost if we were charging for it.”
The donations will benefit the PiraTech robotics club, which plans to use proceeds to build a work pit complete with tool drawers and tables that they will use to service their robot during competitions.
The robotics club was formed last year at the urging of students who were intrigued by the idea of building robots that compete with machines from other schools in an arena setting at the FIRST Robotics Competition.
Administrators say the club, which complements the Port High science, technology, engineering and manufacturing initiative, has been a success, attracting nearly 30 students and nearly as many mentors — area residents who use their expertise in engineering and manufacturing to guide club members.
Last hopes the PiraTech Manufacturing class keeps robotics club members sharp over the summer. Fifteen students have registered for the summer class, which began Monday and will run for six weeks.
“We might continue the program beyond the six weeks if it’s successful,” he said.
To contact PiraTech Manufacturing about a project, call Last at 268-5688.
While the high school summer school program began this week, middle and elementary school students will report for the first day of the six-week session on Monday, June 23.
Thomas Jefferson Middle School Principal Arlan Galarowicz said he expects about 1,200 students to attend summer classes, which range from enrichment courses like fishing, sports and art to classes that reinforce subjects such as math and reading.
A new course that has proven to be extremely popular, Galarowicz said, is Kitchen Chemistry.
“If you think about it, there’s a lot of chemistry that goes into cooking,” he said. “I’m trying to show kids who are preparing to go to the high school that chemistry is nothing to be afraid of. It’s no big deal.”
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Wednesday, 11 June 2014 18:25
City considers joining forces with other lakeshore communities in pursuit of NOAA-funded project
It’s been five years since Port Washington officials first pitched the concept that the city would be the ideal headquarters for a Lake Michigan maritime sanctuary.
Today, the sanctuary is still in the planning process. But instead of vying to become the singular headquarters for the proposed sanctuary, Port Washington and three other lakeshore communities — Sheboygan, Manitowoc and Two Rivers — are considering a regional approach and, in effect, splitting the headquarters by having offices in each, Port Mayor Tom Mlada told the Common Council Tuesday.
“Here, you could come and start in one community and work your way up or down the lakeshore. In each community, you would have something special to concentrate on,” Mlada said. “This has been a long time in coming, but it’s an opportunity for each of us.”
It could also be the first step toward other joint ventures, whether they be in educational initiatives or tourism programs, he said.
Mlada, who met with the mayors of Sheboygan and Manitowoc to discuss the sanctuary proposal last week, said he will ask the Common Council to consider a resolution approving the partnership and supporting the creation of a national marine sanctuary in the area.
That resolution probably won’t come to aldermen when they meet next week, Mlada said, noting the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has not yet started the nomination process. That’s expected to occur in the next several weeks as the agency publishes the rules of the process, he said.
The proposed sanctuary would encompass an 875-square-mile area of Lake Michigan stretching from Port to Two Rivers in an attempt to protect the many shipwrecks in the area.
That area contains 33 known shipwrecks, including 14 intact wrecks, and holds the best examples of many vessels that sailed the waters off Wisconsin, officials said.
Proposed by the Wisconsin Historical Society, the sanctuary would complement the state’s Maritime Trail, officials said.
NOAA is the trustee for 14 marine protected areas encompassing more than 150,000 square miles of ocean and Great Lakes waters, including 13 national marine sanctuaries.
Among those is the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center in Alpena, Mich.
But the Alpena model, where one community holds a large facility for the sanctuary, isn’t going to occur here, Mlada said.
“NOAA has been blunt in saying this isn’t the best way to do things,” he said, leading to the joint effort with other lakeshore communities.
Although the mid-Lake Michigan sanctuary being proposed for the area was first considered several years ago, NOAA has been hamstrung because its site evaluation list for sanctuaries was deactivated in the mid-1990s.
“We basically had no way of nominating a sanctuary,” Ellen Brody, NOAA’s regional coordinator for the Great Lakes and northeast region, said this spring.
The rules that are expected to be published in the next week or so will re-establish the process to create a sanctuary, she said, and communities can then begin the nomination process.
There is a great deal of interest in the program, Brody said, adding she does not know how many nominations will be received.
“To make our application (for the sanctuary) as robust as possible, the best way is to work together on this,” Mlada said. “You have four communities who are very supportive and very much on board with this effort.”
Existing facilities, such as the Maritime Museum in Manitowoc and Spaceport in Sheboygan, and the Exploreum being built in Port Washington could complement the communities’ effort, he added.
The impact of a marine sanctuary could be huge for the city, Mlada said.
“There are so many upsides,” he said. “The economic impact of NOAA having a presence here would be substantial. This would be yet another reason for people to come to our community.”
In addition to being an economic draw, the sanctuary would also be an outstanding educational resource, Mlada said.
“The sky’s the limit on what we could potentially do and the impact it could have,” he said.
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Wednesday, 04 June 2014 18:49
Replacing houses, enforcing demonstration laws among requirements to receive block grant for repair project
It may seem silly, but the Port Washington Common Council on Tuesday agreed to replace any low or moderate-income housing demolished as part of the breakwater repairs it plans to undertake.
Aldermen also agreed to enforce any state, federal or local laws governing non-violent or civil rights demonstrations in the city “even though the chance of having these demonstrations is slim,” City Administrator Mark Grams admitted.
“Basically, what this says is we won’t violate anybody’s rights who are demonstrating legally and lawfully.”
Aldermen also approved a citizen participation plan following a public hearing on the project Tuesday.
“We’ve had plenty of public input in the past (on the breakwater project),” he said, noting not just citizens but also state and federal officials have been involved in the discussion.
It was all necessary as part of the city’s application for a community development block grant to help finance the breakwater repairs, Grams said.
“Obviously, nobody’s being relocated,” he said. “However, we still need to have a relocation plan.”
The city is seeking funding from both the Community Development Block Grant program for public facilities and the Recreations Boating Facilities grant program to help pay for improvements to the cap on the west end of the deteriorating breakwater.
Aldermen on Tuesday agreed to pay the city’s consultant, Foth Infrastructure and Environment, $13,500 for its work on the two grant applications.
“When you’re looking at getting $1 million in grant money, $13,000 is a small price,” Grams said.
The city’s chances for the recreational boating funds are good, he said.
“It sounds like we might be the only community in Wisconsin on Lake Michigan applying,” he said.
The city previously agreed to pay Foth $15,000 for its work on an application for the Department of Natural Resources stewardship grant, and $15,000 for its work researching grant programs and meeting with agencies to pave the way for funding.
“This is what we’re paying for — the expertise to shepherd these through the process,” Mayor Tom Mlada said.
Grams said the city expects to apply for at least two more grants, adding the cost to write these applications is likely to be less because staff members will do some of the work.
The city has committed to spending $1 million for improvements on the west end of the breakwater — a commitment made to ensure the Army Corps of Engineers, which owns the structure, would spend the $950,000 it has allocated for the project to placing armor stone along 1,000 feet on the easternmost portion of the breakwater.
The structure is weakest on the east end, city officials said, and the armor stone will help ensure the structure will last.
City officials asked the Army Corps to use its funds for armor stone because there are virtually no grants available for this work. There are grants available to the city for other breakwater improvements.
Funds spent by the Army Corps on the breakwater will be used as matching funds for any grants received by the city, minimizing the cost to local property owners, officials said.
Grams said work on the breakwater will be done over two years, adding that the city can pay for its share of the work over three years.
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Wednesday, 28 May 2014 18:20
August event planned by Port-Saukville Jaycees will raise money for much-discussed lakefront safeguard
Frustrated by the lack of a railing along the Coal Dock Park promenade, the Port Washington-Saukville Jaycees is holding its first Land Regatta Run/Walk in August, with proceeds going toward the project.
The four-mile course will be timed, while the two-mile course will be untimed and more of a family event, race director Christina Brickner said. It will be held on Saturday, Aug. 16, during Maritime Heritage Festival.
“It seems awesome to go on a run past the tall ships,” Brickner said.
With the race beginning and ending in Coal Dock Park, the railing seemed like an ideal project to raise money for, she added.
“For this inaugural event, it was an easy choice for us, especially since the majority of our members have young families,” Jaycees President Morgan Herrick said.
“We want to ensure that this park is as safe as possible for our children to run and play, so we believe this is a great use of the event proceeds.”
All of the proceeds this year will go toward the railing, Brickner said, adding other charitable causes will be funded in future years.
“We will not keep a dime,” she said.
Jaycees members feel strongly that the railing along the 1,000-foot-long promenade on the north end of the park is needed, Brickner said.
She recalled a day last year when she was pushing a stroller as she and her children walked on the promenade.
“The stroller rolled on its own accord toward the edge,” she said. “All it takes is one fall, one tumble, and a child will go down into the lake. And it is quite a drop.”
She’s not completely comfortable walking too close to the edge herself, Brickner added.
The run will also help further the goals of the city’s Waterfront Safety Advisory Committee, with the Jaycees including water safety tips in race registration packets.
Since Coal Dock Park opened last year, the question of whether a railing should be installed along the promenade has been debated.
Aldermen agreed earlier this year that one should be, citing the issue of safety, but installation of a railing has been postponed as officials seek funding for it.
With an estimated cost of $200,000, the railing is not an inexpensive amenity for the park. The city has applied for a Department of Natural Resources stewardship grant that could pay as much as half the cost, but it won’t know whether it will receive any funding until late June or early July, officials said.
“We feel confident we’ll get at least some of the money,” Public Works Director Rob Vanden Noven said Tuesday, adding officials are hoping to get at least $45,000 in grant money.
If the city doesn’t get all the money it is seeking, it will likely reapply next year for the remainder of the funds, he said.
The city would be expected to match that amount, and Vanden Noven said that money would likely come from funds that remain in the Coal Dock Park development budget.
Money raised by groups such as the Jaycees and the Port Washington Woman’s Club, which has pledged $1,000 toward the railing, could also be used to make up any shortfall, Vanden Noven said.
If the city is confident it will receive the grant money, even if that occurs over two years, it would likely install the railing in phases beginning this fall, he added.
That would be rewarding, Brickner said, noting she is hoping to get 500 participants in the Land Regatta Run/Walk this year and build on that in the future.
The run/walk, which will take the place of Mayor Tom Mlada’s lakeshore run, has a second purpose as well, Brickner said — raising awareness of the Jaycees, which have been in Port Washington for 65 years.
“Most people don’t realize that,” she said. “And like any civic organization, we struggle with membership. It would be great if some people learn about us and join us.”
The event is slated to begin at 9 a.m. for people taking part in the four-mile run, followed by the two-mile walk/run.
Check in begins at 7:30 a.m.
The fee for the run/walk is $20 for people ages 14 and older if they register by Aug. 2 and $25 after that date. Included in the fee is a T-shirt and, for adults, a raffle ticket for prizes that include travel, gym and a sky-diving packages.
There is no registration fee for those ages 13 and younger. They do not receive a T-shirt.
To register, visit www.active.com. Forms may be dropped off at BMO Harris Bank and Smith Bros. Coffeehouse, both in Port Washington, and at the Feith Family Ozaukee YMCA in Saukville.
For more information, visit http://jci.port-washington.org.