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‘Top notch’ work from Diman students on key piece of city infrastructure

By Jo C. Goode
Herald News Staff Reporter

Diman students watch as water flows through new sluice gates they created FALL RIVER -- A group of Diman Regional Vocational Technical High School students saw the fruits of their labors materialized in a dramatic way on Friday when a project they had worked on for a year -- replacing vital sluice gates that help control the flow of water from the Quequechan River -- became an integral part of the city’s infrastructure for decades to come.

Students, their educators and staff from the city’s water and sewer departments met at what is called #7 Iron Works, located behind a group of mills on Pocasset Street where the river flows underground to a sluice that directs the water to the Battleship Cove area and Firestone Mill Pond.

They watched as a crane lifted large gates into a black metal sleeve, where crews will open and close the gates with a giant iron wrench to control the flow of water from South Watuppa Pond.

It was a good day to install and test out the Diman students’ work: The threat of heavy rains from Tropical Storm Fay meant crews would have to lower the water level at South Watuppa Pond ahead of time.

Within about 15 minutes after the dam was opened at South Watuppa, a torrent flowed from the underground Quequechan River through as workers tweaked the placement of the new sluice gates.

“About a year ago we knew the sluice gate needed to be repaired,” said Paul Ferland, the city’s director of community utilities, who said the pre-existing gates were easily over 100 years old. “We’ve worked with Diman on other projects in the past, and we worked with them to reconstruct these gates at the beginning of last school year.”

“Their work is top notch.”

Working with the vocational-technical high school also saved the city money, said Ferland. If the department hired an outside firm, the project could have easily cost the city $60,000.

Maria Torres, assistant principal for technical affairs at Diman, said it was a “wonderful project for the students.”

“We’re always looking to partner with the community, number one. And number two, we always want to take on projects that challenge our students, so that was the biggest thing,” said Torres. “It was challenging to them in many ways.”

Torres said the project incorporated a range of the school’s areas of studies from drafting, machine tool technology, carpentry, welding and metal works.

The dental assisting program even pitched in and took impressions of the old gate gears.

Machine tool technology student Evan Thro, who recently graduated from Diman and is attending University of Massachusetts Dartmouth as a mechanical engineering student, was part of the student team and called it a good learning experience. “Because it’s what you do out in the industry,” he said.

“We always had to communicate, we always had to know what was going on. There was constant communication,” said Thro. “It was measure twice and cut once, because you only had one shot and make sure you do it right.”

Manny Botelho, who heads the high school’s carpentry department, called it an impactful team effort for the students.

“They loved it, especially knowing they made something that’s going to be here for years,” said Botelho.