Laurel School 2019 graduate Claire Fedor’s work and legacy at her new alma mater will be hard to miss after designing a 70-foot pedestrian bridge for the school’s Butler Campus in Russell as part of Laurel’s Capstone Program.
Laurel Director of Strategic Partnerships Trey Wilson leads Laurel’s Capstone Program and said the program gives students an opportunity to dig deep into a topic of their choice from ninth to 12th grade in the categories of civic engagement, entrepreneurship, global studies and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math). The first two years are spent forming a foundational knowledge of their topics, while junior and senior years are spent on a research project completed with the help of mentors, he said.
Claire, 17, of Bentleyville said she knew from when she applied to the Capstone Program that she wanted to research civil engineering and architecture in connection with bridges.
“Since I was a little kid, I loved building with Legos or admiring bridges,” Claire said. “I always admired the structures a lot. When it came time to declare my research focus, I decided I wanted to build a model of a bridge and apply that model to a real life situation.”
After narrowing in on a temporary bridge constructed for the LaureLive music festival at the southern end of the track at the Butler Campus that crosses over a retention swale, Claire expanded her proposal to include the design and construction of a permanent bridge at that location.
Laurel Facilities Manager Mary Ann Pellerano and Bialosky Cleveland architect Larissa Burlij served as mentors for Claire and helped her form a schedule and make sure all components of the bridge-building process were included. After researching different options for the bridge, Claire decided on modeling and designing a cable stayed bridge, a type of suspension bridge seen in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge and the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in the Tampa, Florida area.
“It’s been a really well rounded experience and I got to see a lot of parts of what goes into designing and constructing a cable stayed bridge,” Claire said.
After deciding on the type of bridge, Claire said she was connected with John Fenton, owner of Fenton Engineering, who taught and worked with Claire last summer on all of the different aspects of designing and making calculations for a bridge of this size.
“It was a little daunting because I was embarking on a project that would result in a 70-foot bridge, and when I first met with Mr. Fenton I was like, ‘OK, I don’t know how to do this; I need to learn this,’” Claire said. “I’d taken physics, but not the amount of physics you need to design a bridge all by yourself, but that was the point of the project, to gain understanding beyond the classroom, and I got that through my mentors. And while it was daunting at first when I went through the project, it was rewarding to gain knowledge of something I’ve been interested in since I was a little kid.”
After the designs were complete, they became a reality when they were fabricated at Morgan Engineering over the winter and spring of this school year. Last week, Claire was able to witness the construction of the bridge at the Butler Campus and was the first person to walk across it and signed the top of the bridge’s central column.
“I’m speechless; I don’t know how to explain how it feels,” Claire said of seeing the bridge, named Fedor Crossing, finished at the Butler Campus. “Drawings had been done, I knew it was happening, I saw it in the shop all assembled, but to see it in place is just amazing.”
Mr. Wilson said the Capstone Program was designed to empower students to pursue projects that teachers could never imagine, and Claire’s bridge definitely fits the bill.
“The pedestrian bridge is one example, but we have girls creating podcasts about the history of math and numbers, students creating a public service announcement about what it’s like to be in an abusive relationship as a teenager and how can one extract herself, writing books about a variety of subjects,” he said. “They know that pursuit (of earning high grades), but to watch our students pursue these interests that are of their choice and their design is really powerful.”
Outside of the Capstone Program, Claire served as student body president, placed 10th in the Division II long jump state championships this past weekend in Columbus and also played varsity soccer and basketball for the Gators among her high school accomplishments. She plans to study government and law this fall at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania.
“It was very hard for me to make a decision between government and law and civil engineering just because this past year in high school exposed me to other things through classes and being part of student government here,” Claire said. “It’s been hard for me to decide between the two right now.”
While she doesn’t plan to pursue civil engineering right now, Claire said she enjoyed being able to explore her love of bridges through the capstone experience.
“This experience has been outstanding, and I’m so grateful to Laurel and the Capstone Program for giving me this opportunity,” she said.