Ridgefield High School STEM students observe geological engineering field work on campus

Ridgefield High School engineering students observe the geological field work taking place on campus. Lance Lehto from Columbia West Engineering shows the students one of many soil samples extracted in the process.

A geological engineering team from Columbia West Engineering Inc. was on campus at Ridgefield High School in early December to acquire soil samples for analysis from the site of proposed new construction for the Ridgefield High School expansion, part of Ridgefield School District’s 2017 bond project.

Field workers from the company extracted numerous soil samples for lab analysis to determine the site’s soil composition. Engineers will use the data to design the foundation for the new structure.

Preparation for the soil study involved heavy equipment being carefully maneuvered into place onto the campus’ courtyard and having the area cordoned off for student safety, as classes were in session during the operation.

Earlier this year, Lance Lehto, president of Columbia West Engineering, recognized the event as a unique learning opportunity for STEM students and reached out to high school administrators and project managers on the construction side to help make this happen. As a result, engineering students in Ridgefield High School’s STEM program got a close-up look at this field work.

This week, Lehto visited the STEM engineering classes to do presentations about the soil study from a geologic field engineering perspective while the field work was taking place outside the classroom.

Students learned about soil composition in Ridgefield and in Clark County, got some geological history of the local region, and learned why soil analysis is essential in building design.

Then, outfitted with hard hats, safety vests and safety goggles, students headed over to the field work site with Lehto where they observed the actual soil sample extraction process in real time.

The field crew drilled as far down as 75 feet to acquire the samples of clay, silt, sand and gravel layers that make up the soil on the site.

The Ridgefield High School expansion project is currently in its design phase. Construction is scheduled to begin in summer 2018 with proposed completion in fall 2019–in time for the start of the 2019-20 school year.

Columbia West Engineering Inc. is a locally-owned and operated multi-disciplinary geotechnical, environmental, special inspection, materials firm. The district is grateful to Lance Lehto and his engineering crew for providing this unique learning opportunity.