Touching Down at Cradle of Aviation

LIRR Expansion Project Representatives from a variety of disciplines participated in the Cradle of Aviation’s 2019 STEM Career Expo. They each described their educational backgrounds and career paths that led to their current role on the project.

What does the LIRR Expansion Project have to do with the history of aviation? Well, in case you were wondering, the project, which will bring a third track to the Main Line between Floral Park and Hicksville, through the center of Nassau County, is adjacent to the Hempstead Plains, the only natural prairie east of the Allegheny Mountains (learn something new every day, right?).

Both the first transcontinental flight (1911) and in 1927 Charles Lindbergh took off from the Hempstead Plains and flew across the mighty Atlantic to Paris. Lindbergh’s flight, at the height of the golden age of aviation, revolutionized air travel. By the time Lindbergh took off from Long Island, there were already numerous aviation manufacturers on the island (today there are more than 240 aviation companies operating in Nassau and Suffolk counties). The Hempstead Plains came to be known as the Cradle of Aviation.

Much like the aviators of old, the LIRR is bringing innovation and incomparable feats of engineering to Long Island with the LIRR Expansion Project Floral Park to Hicksville, one of the region’s most significant transportation infrastructure projects. Just this year the Project rolled in five new bridges along the corridor and eliminated the grade crossings at Urban Avenue in New Cassel and Covert Avenue in New Hyde Park. It was a busy summer, to say the least.

The Cradle of Aviation Museum is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1980 to promote Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematic (STEM) education – the museum is just off Charles Lindbergh Way in Garden City, NY. The Cradle of Aviation Museum seeks to address the “brain drain” in Long Island by retaining students and better preparing them for the careers of tomorrow by establishing partnerships between the academic and business communities. Representatives from MTA-LIRR and Design-Build Contractor 3rd Track Constructors (3TC) gave a series of interactive presentations to more than 100 students from nearby schools, including Mineola High School, Westbury High School and Holy Trinity Dioscean High School in Hicksville, at the Cradle of Aviation Museum’s 8th Annual STEM Career Expo on October 28th.

The project team showcased the array of technical professionals involved in the project as well as career paths available to students, from engineering to construction to environmental science. Many of the students often ride the LIRR or live adjacent to the project corridor, and they were quite interested in the aesthetics of the new and improved stations.

AModernLI.com (AMLI): We spoke with the LIRR Expansion Project Team (EXPT) about the event – they loved it!

AMLI: Why was this such a fun event? What’s the best part of doing events like these?

EXPT: It had an interesting structure where we got to speak to groups in short periods. The tight timeframes kept us on our toes as we tried to engage new groups. It’s fun to speak to young people who show interest into what their careers might be and sharing some wisdom and advice with them.

AMLI: What did you guys discuss with the students?

EXPT: We gave an overview about the project, why we’re making the investment, and showcased the innovative techniques we’re using to accomplish a tremendous amount of work. We also explained the steps students can take to get involved in similar fields.

AMLI: Why is STEM education so important?

EXPT: We live in an ever-changing world where technology continues to advance. We also live in an area where we rely on transportation systems built with older technology, and it takes a lot of work to maintain and improve these systems. It’s vital we have a qualified workforce to make that happen.

AMLI: There seems to be a connection between railroad projects and aviation, in terms of scale, the importance of precise engineering, the multi-discipline approach, etc.

EXPT: Absolutely! Just as it takes a massive team to put together an airplane or to build an airport, it takes a massive team to build and run a train system as extensive as the LIRR, which is the busiest commuter railroad in North America. There are innumerable components, interrelated systems…it’s just enormous.

AMLI: Who presented from your team?

EXPT: We had representatives from several project disciplines—engineering, outreach, scheduling, environmental. It was great to have people from the LIRR, 3TC, and the consultant team.

AMLI: Why is it important for the EP team to present at these events?

EXPT: The LIRR Expansion Project is a once-in-a-lifetime project happening in the middle of Nassau County – right in people’s backyards. We’re using advanced engineering techniques that are relatively new to the U.S., and it’s important for these kids to know they don’t have to go far to break new ground or do something unique. It’s here!

The LIRR Expansion Project’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) and Safety Educational Program is a collaborative effort with schools and other education organizations along the project corridor. Through this educational outreach program, students are encouraged to apply STEM studies to a real-world, local project. Students are also exposed to a wide variety of STEM professionals working on the project.

The LIRR Expansion Project’s recent 2019 STEM Competition was open to students in grades 6 through 12 attending specific schools along the project corridor. Competition participants were asked to respond to a written prompt through either a poster or video submission, and entrants were judged based on grade level – the winners were announced in June. For more information about the LIRR Expansion Project Floral Park to Hicksville, please visit the project page on AModernLI.com – //www.amodernli.com/project/thirdtrack/.

Deputy Community Outreach Manager Dan Marcy and LIRR Project Management Team Coordinator Noelle McKoy showed construction time lapse videos to Mineola High School students. Many were intrigued by the project and were excited to hear proposed plans to improve and enhance the LIRR Mineola Station and plaza area.
The Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City, NY was founded with the goals of “preserving Long Island’s rich aerospace heritage of discovery and inspiring future generations through science and technology.”