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News . Feature Stories . Fish and Ships project receives Ford funding

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November 05, 2012

Fish and Ships project receives Ford funding

Ford College Community Challenge (C3) grant supports CIA Industrial Design students' project to save wildlife and commerce.

Fish and Ships project receives Ford funding

Building a product for a healthy fish habitat is an unusual assignment for students at an art and design college, but it’s just the type of challenge Cleveland Institute of Art students love to tackle. It is also a unique project that the Ford Motor Company looks to fund, and has, with a $50,000 grant to CIA through the company’s Ford College Community Challenge (C3).

The Ford C3 grant will fund the work of CIA’s Industrial Design students in their project, named Fish and Ships, where they design sustainable bulkheads for Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River that ensure safe shipping through the river while protecting important fish habitat.

In order to maintain the Cuyahoga as a sufficiently deep river for large ship traffic, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers periodically dredges the navigation channel and installed heavy gauge steel panels and concrete walls as bulkheads to keep the riverbanks stable and in place. Construction of these bulkheads on the Cuyahoga (and many other rivers feeding the Great Lakes) destroyed habitat sometimes described as nursery ground for larval fish that would migrate into Lake Erie. As a result, bulkheads throughout the region dramatically reduced both the diversity of aquatic life in the Great Lakes and the filtration of runoff into the river that would occur on a natural, plant-covered river bank.

CIA Associate Professor Douglas Paige and environmental engineer Jennifer Hillman are working with CIA Industrial Design students to develop concepts of “green” bulkheads. Since the fall semester began, CIA students have been studying river systems and biomimicry methodology through classroom lectures and a kayak trip to study both natural and human-made river banks up close.

The Ford C3 program is designed to empower student-led projects at higher education organizations that address pressing local needs, according to Michael Schmidt, director of Education and Community Development, Ford Motor Company Fund. The overarching theme of the Ford College Community Challenge is “Building Sustainable Communities.”

“At Ford, we understand that to be a truly sustainable organization, we must play an active role in the larger community, helping to address a wide range of vital issues from education to safety to mobility,” said Schmidt.

“The green bulkheads project will be particularly enriching for CIA’s Industrial Design students – whether they ultimately pursue automotive design, product design or some other design field – by providing them with an educational experience that requires them to conduct research, think creatively, and balance practical considerations with aesthetics and principles of sustainability,” Paige said.

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