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Engineers Week celebrates relief efforts

By Jackie Delaney

In honor of Engineers Week, a seven-day-long commemoration of the engineering profession, Michael S. Bruno gave an hour-long seminar titled “Humans vs. Nature: Improving Coastal Resilience in the Aftermath of Sandy” in the Mayo Concert Hall on Wednesday, Feb. 25, at 11 a.m.

Bruno is currently the dean of the School of Engineering and Science and professor of ocean engineering at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J. He is also the Director of the Center for Secure and Resilient Maritime Commerce and Coastal Environments, a department of the Homeland Security National Center of Excellence.

“Engineers Week began in 1951 in order to educate the public about the significant contributions of the engineering profession to society,” School of Engineering Dean Steven Schreiner said. “Annually, engineering schools, corporations and professional engineering societies across the country use this week to celebrate how engineers make a difference in our world by creating innovative technological solutions to today’s most pressing problems.”

This year, Engineers Week — sponsored by the School of Engineering, Sustainable Jersey, the Center for Community Engaged Learning and Research and Alternative Break Club — was utilized to bring attention to ongoing campus-wide efforts to respond to those affected by natural disasters such as Hurricane Sandy and Hurricane Katrina.

Bruno began the seminar by discussing the large amount of coastal cities across the world. Many large and populated cities are located on coasts because of the economic benefit of ports, but according to Bruno, “they are in harm’s way.”

Bruno presented many photographs of areas in New York City and Hoboken, as well as coastal communities in New Jersey, that were heavily affected by Hurricane Sandy in October of 2012. The storm flooded streets and swept away homes into the sea.

“This was a mammoth storm … a historic storm,” Bruno said.

The seminar focused on resilience engineering, which, according to Bruno, is “striving to do better when recovering” after a storm like Hurricane Sandy.

The goal for engineers is to create a system that delivers an even better service than it did before the disaster, through innovations and opportunities. Resilience engineering looks to improve coastal cities after disasters have occurred, using these events to progress rather than just simply recover.

Bruno highlighted many strategies that cities could use to adapt and become more resilient. Social cohesion, emergency planning, economic diversity and fortification were among his top strategies.

Social cohesion, Bruno explained, focuses on the interaction of cities with other cities. He stressed the importance of “being friendly with your neighbor,” after studying that many areas were able to bounce back more easily with aid from nearby cities.

Bruno also discussed the necessity of collaboration when analyzing and creating systems of resilience.

“Linking physics with oceanography and ocean engineering … (to) models of social and behavioral aspects, that’s where it gets to be important,” Bruno said. “Ultimately, the systems that engineers design and build are in the hands of the people.”

The seminar largely focused on lessons learned during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, from rebuilding coastal cities to actions that should be taken by authorities when a storm of this caliber is predicted.

“It is important to underscore Dr. Bruno’s emphasis on designing technological solutions that consider human and societal dimensions,” Schreiner said. “I am confident that TCNJ engineers are well-prepared to contribute such designs for the betterment of society.”


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