P-TECH students help build replica Seneca Chief at Buffalo’s Canalside ahead of Erie Canal’s bicentennial
√ Video of boat building experience here
The New York Power Authority and the New York State Canal Corp. announced a collaboration with the Buffalo Maritime Center that provided a technical trade and skill-building opportunity for students participating in the Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) program.
Throughout the summer, two of NYPA’s P-TECH interns helped construct a traditionally built, full-sized replica of the Seneca Chief canal boat, which will set sail from Buffalo to New York Harbor in 2025 to commemorate the bicentennial of Gov. DeWitt Clinton’s 1825 inaugural voyage along the Erie Canal. Throughout their time working on the replica Seneca Chief in the Longshed building at Buffalo’s Canalside, the P-TECH interns received hands-on training while learning about traditional boatbuilding, the maritime trades, and the history of the Erie Canal.
“Our partnership with P-TECH is bridging a gap and giving young students exposure to careers, skills, networking opportunities, and much more,” said New York Power Authority President and CEO Justin E. Driscoll. “When Buffalo-area interns expressed interest in learning more about New York’s canals, we were thrilled to be able to provide them with this unique experience, a once-in-a-lifetime moment that brought their interest in the building trades together with the iconic Erie Canal.”
In July, NYPA launched its third annual internship program with P-TECH, providing students in underserved areas of New York state pursuing studies and careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) the opportunity to develop skills and competencies that will translate directly to competitive careers. This year, in collaboration with NYPA’s environmental justice team, the initiative has been expanded to focus on training more students from communities that suffer the most from both environmental pollution and unemployment.
New York State Canal Corp. Director Brian U. Stratton said, “The P-TECH internship program and the teamwork with the Buffalo Maritime Center has proven to be an incredible hands-on opportunity for students to be a part of history. While working on the replica Seneca Chief, they gained both skills and life stories that they can share as they launch into their careers. As New York prepares to commemorate the bicentennial of the Erie Canal in 2025, we applaud these young students for their leaving their own mark on its legacy.”
NYPA Vice President of Environmental Justice Kaela Mainsah said, “Providing this experience for P-TECH’s summer interns gives them an opportunity to gain key technical skills, and as importantly, to give back to their community by volunteering on this project. Broadening young peoples’ exposure, as well as their perspectives, is an important part of the learning activities we aim to provide, especially surrounding renewable energy and career readiness concepts.”
Buffalo Maritime Center Executive Director Brian Trzeciak said, “It was a pleasure to welcome P-TECH interns to the Buffalo Maritime Center to lend a hand in the building of the replica Seneca Chief. After just a few days on-site, we noticed a newfound confidence as the students engaged in the construction work. This is exactly what we aim to instill in those who come to work with us, and we are thankful for the opportunity to have had them onboard.”
In 2025, to coincide with the bicentennial of the Erie Canal, New York state will host the World Canals Conference in Buffalo. The event will bring together hundreds of canal and inland waterway enthusiasts, professionals and scholars from around the world to learn about a variety of topics related to canals. At the conclusion of the conference, the replica Seneca Chief will begin its voyage from Buffalo to New York City along the Erie Canal. Upon its return to Western New York, the replica will remain as an educational exhibit at the Buffalo Maritime Center.