Rooftop hatch by middle school teacher Tom Erickson wins Samsung's Solve for Tomorrow contest.

OUTLOOK PHOTO: ZANE SPARLING - Clear Creek Middle School students take a tour of Advanced Metal & Wire Products in Wood Village on Wednesday, Jan. 24. An idea generated by the gusts of a hurricane has turned into a $25,000 windfall for Clear Creek Middle School.

Science teacher Tom Erickson saw how many people fled to their attics or second stories as flood waters rose during Hurricane Katrina and, more recently, Hurricane Sandy. That got him thinking.

"Buildings like our school have hatches, but you don't see them in residences," the Gresham-Barlow School District educator explained. "(During Hurricane Katrina) a lot of people got trapped and died."

OUTLOOK PHOTO: ZANE SPARLING - The hatch, which hasnt been welded together yet, earned Clear Creek Middle School a $25,000 prize package from Samsungs Solve for Tomorrow competition. Erickson's class of sixth through eighth graders designed a special rooftop trapdoor and submitted it to Samsung's nationwide Solve for Tomorrow competition. The contest challenges public school teachers to show how STEAM — science, technology, engineering, arts and math — can help improve the community.

Erickson's class took home the top honors for Oregon, netting a $25,000 prize package.

On Wednesday, Jan. 24, his students got to see how their idea is becoming reality during a tour of Advanced Metal & Wire Products, located at 2345 N.E. 244th Avenue in Wood Village.

"It's amazing to see what our buildings and cities are made of," 14-year-old Linnea Burton said to a backbeat of industrial buzzes and clangs. "Welding this stuff could be fun, and the coding would be up my alley."

Students watched workers cut brass fasteners for TriMet, punch out holes in the lids of circuit breaker boxes and finish off wall-mounted metal racks that display shoes at sporting goods stores. Most of the machines, including a CO2 laser and a turret punch, only need one worker to operate and another to load.

The hatch is already fabricated, but still needs to be welded together. When finished, the lid will have LEDs that flash out SOS and a shortwave FM broadcaster capable of alerting first responders up to 300 feet away.

OUTLOOK PHOTO: ZANE SPARLING - Science teacher Tom Erickson, right, shows his students materials that will be incorporated into a rooftop escape hatch. Clay Mott, left, attended Ericksons classes years ago at Dexter McCarty Middle School. "I hope (my students) can see some of the connections to what they're learning in class, and to these jobs that can be really rewarding," Erickson said.

During its 16-year presence in Wood Village, Metal & Wire has produced a lot, including some structural anchors embedded in the One World Trade Center tower in New York City.

"The jobs are coming back onshore," noted owner Jim Mott, who employs about 30 at his cavernous shop. "Now we need a workforce that can produce." OUTLOOK PHOTO: ZANE SPARLING - A worker welds together a frame on Wednesday, Jan. 24, at Advanced Metal & Wire Products, 2345 N.E. 244th Avenue in Wood Village.

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