A group of Waianae students gets a hands-on assignment ... save a disappearing road

Waianae high school students have been entrusted by the state DOT to help protect and potentially save the road in front of Makaha Beach.
Published: May. 25, 2022 at 9:19 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Using tape measures and drones, a group of students from Waianae High School gathers data on how the beach is affecting Farrington Highway.

They came here every Friday this semester.

“We are measuring the coastal erosion and measuring from how far the water comes to the road so we can prevent it from damaging our roads,” said Eloise Zabala, a senior at Waianae High.

Based on their observations, the tides and the wind push the sand. That sand sometimes ends up on the highway.

The state Department of Transportation wants to know why it’s happening, how often and what other potential problems could arise.

That’s important because there’s only one road in and out of the area. And they entrusted these students to help figure it all out.

“So we just want to have accurate data to track when are those days,” teacher Jameil Saez said. “Like at what time of the year is the road going to be impacted by the sand and it’s going to be covered by sand.”

Eloise adds, “In one week, it can change a lot, especially when the tides is high, ‘cause the water comes up higher and then the sand goes down lower.”

Right now, they’re just gathering measurements and observations. But that data will be used by the DOT and needs to be done correctly.

That’s why the science and tech experts at Oceanit are helping out.

But the students also bring their own expertise to this project.

“Some of my kids know way more than me, right?” Saez said. “When we have like a difference in the dimensions of the sand they’re like, ‘oh uncle, that’s because back in the day, this happened, this happened. Oh, that’s because this is a surf break, yeah?”

“So we’re using the knowledge in the community that the kids have with the technology that Oceanit is providing us.”

And even as the semester ends, the project isn’t done. The students have more to do next school year.

“The other threat to the road is also on the mauka side where you have a water shed and water coming in,” said Ian Kitajima, of Oceanit. “So there could be flooding issues we have to anticipate as well. We want to work with the students to study that upper area and digitize it and do observations and take water quality studies.”

Their research could eventually used to monitor and perhaps combat climate change. But this project also showed the students they can impact their own community for the better.

“Doing this it opens your eyes to like, so many things change in just a short amount of time,” Eloise said. “And being able to study it you get to see the change. And you’re like, ‘wow.’ I can actually say that I seen this change from what it was before.”

And to have their efforts lead to change is even more special.

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