How Hersey High students pitched sidewalk proposal to Prospect Heights

A proposal from Hersey High School’s Engineering Club for a 175-foot sidewalk to cross a flood-prone patch of land near their Arlington Heights campus has caught to eye of Prospect Heights officials.

The project was surveyed, designed and presented to the city council this week by members of the nine-student club, who estimate a construction cost of $30,000. The proposal represents more than a year of the students’ time seeking a solution to a real-world problem.

“We started brainstorming last winter and spring,” said senior Abi Beck, who soon will be studying bioengineering at the University of Illinois. “We were looking for things we could do to help the community.”

The Hersey High School Engineering Club surveys a flood-prone gap in Waterman Avenue at Willow Road where members designed a sidewalk and pitched it to the Prospect Heights City Council. Courtesy of Rich Hyde
  Hersey High School senior and Engineering Club member Rob Geissenberger takes his turn at the podium during the group's recent presentation to the Prospect Heights City Council on their design of a sidewalk connecting a gap in Waterman Avenue at Willow Road near the school. Eric Peterson/

Senior Rob Geissenberger, who will study engineering at the University of Arizona, said he regularly encountered the project’s real-world problem as a member of Hersey’s cross country team, when runners attempted to cross the often muddy area where Waterman Avenue pauses at Willow Road.

“It would be a good spot for a sidewalk,” he said. “I think my favorite part was surveying the plot of land.”

Six members of the club took part in the presentation to the city council Monday, which included photographs, maps and renderings of the proposed sidewalk.

“We will definitely look at what we can do with this,” Prospect Heights Mayor Patrick Ludvigsen said. “I do see the need for this.”

The plan also received the expert appreciation of Public Works Director Mark Roscoe.

“If we can keep the cost down to a minimum, it’s a realistic goal for our community,” Roscoe said. “It’s a small, palatable, realistic project. They did a good job by mentioning the number of homes (nearby). It’s a very favorable project for me. Their group was dynamite.”

Club members carefully accounted for changes in the grade of the land and the regulations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, he added.

The issue hasn’t been addressed earlier mainly because of Prospect Heights’ history of not being a strongly pro-sidewalk community, Roscoe said. But the Engineering Club has armed the city to move forward with a proof of concept.

Even with so much work done on a small project, it will still take about two to three years to get it budgeted if funding becomes available, Roscoe said. A Cook County permit also will be required.

Engineering Club sponsor Rich Hyde said it was a joy to see the students embrace such a practical undertaking with their skills. While the seniors have passed on their leadership in taking the project forward, all members have committed to helping with its future implementation however they can.

“One of the things I cherished as a high school student was working with real-world problems,” he said. “Our students have had amazing success with this project.”

The other students involved with the project are Allison Kanabay, Sydney Lau, Gabrielle Lischett, Francis Maghari, Anthony Zebron, Evan Lewis and Benjamin Werling.

“The next generation is in great hands,” Prospect Heights City Administrator Joe Wade said.

Prospect Heights Mayor Patrick Ludvigsen is flanked by members of Hersey High School's Engineering Club, with faculty sponsor Rich Hyde at the right, on the evening of their presentation to the city council. Courtesy of Prospect Heights
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