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STEM Students Learn About Engineering On Dam Tour
by Mark Rankin, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
July 21, 2017

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A team of engineering professionals from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District recently welcomed area high school and college students for a Corps career overview and tour of the Old Hickory Lock and Dam in Hendersonville, Tenn.

Corps subject matter experts within the fields of science, technology, engineering and math talked about their jobs with nine students and four teachers from Martin Luther King, Maplewood, Hillsboro, and Nashville School of the Arts High schools and four college students from Tennessee State University during their visit May 4, 2017.

May 4, 2017 - John Bell, hydropower operator trainee, explains to a group of high school and college students in the control room about procedures and how water passes through generating units using a gravity-fed system at the Old Hickory Dam Hydropower Plan in Hendersonville, Tenn. (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers photo by Mark Rankin)
May 4, 2017 - John Bell, hydropower operator trainee, explains to a group of high school and college students in the control room about procedures and how water passes through generating units using a gravity-fed system at the Old Hickory Dam Hydropower Plan in Hendersonville, Tenn. (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers photo by Mark Rankin)

As part of a partnership with Tennessee State University Center for Entrepreneurship & Economic Development in the student entrepreneurship program, Corps employees mentored and instructed students on STEM careers, engineering fields and current Corps projects.

Maj. Christopher Burkhart, Nashville District deputy commander, welcomed the group and gave the students a brief orientation on the roles of civilian workers and military personnel; he then received a more in-depth look at the district’s history, branches, and project locations and purposes.

“It is great to have the students and teachers here to take a few minutes and educate them about Corps of Engineers careers,” Burkhart said. “Our goal is to help students and teachers understand the many possibilities of STEM jobs available at the Corps.”

Roy Rossignol, Nashville District Small Business chief, has been working with students for the past three years through the mentorship program. He said helping educate high school and college students through STEM is key to helping them understand the STEM path for career advancement.

“STEM is great way we can expose our youth to different careers fields in high school and college,” said Rossignol. “Our goal is to take this opportunity to open the teachers and students eyes through STEM and hopefully they will want to come back and work for the Corps someday.”

Crystal Tingle, Old Hickory Lake resource manager, talked to the students about how the staff manages the natural resources at Old Hickory Lake and educates the public and kids about being good stewards and being aware of water and boating safety.

In addition, Carol Haynes, chief, Equal Employment Officer with the Nashville District explained career opportunities with the Corps to the students.

“It’s about finding innovative new ways of educating and exposing students to careers, college, so that they think differently about their future,” Haynes explained.

After the briefing, Haynes and Tingle led the group across the Old Hickory navigation lock and dam to the power plant located on the opposite side of the dam on the Cumberland River in Hendersonville, Tenn.

The group met with hydropower operator trainee John Bell who gave the group a safety briefing and introduction of maintenance tools and gear used at the power plant.

Bell described the day-to-day power plant operations and the function of four large General Electric generators used for hydropower generation. The group witnessed the operation of the turbine shaft and other major components, and the large rotator assembly.

Bell said it was an excellent opportunity for him to show the students the dam and help them learn about the district’s infrastructure and engineering expertise.

“I really like giving tours and I get a kick out of seeing students come to visit the power house, see how it operates and pause with a blank look on their face when they see or learn something they did not know,” said Bell. “I enjoy giving STEM students tours because it offers them a practical approach to basic high school science and engineering to college learning, and also helps them understand what engineers do and how college classes relate to real-world engineering.”

At the end of the tour, Darrell Butler Jr., a senior from TSU, said understanding the whole concept of a lock and dam, and the hydropower process was a mind blowing experience and he is very appreciative of the opportunity to tour the dam before he graduates college. He said he plans to pursue an engineering job with the Corps of Engineers.

“Most people don’t get this opportunity to see how the Corps operates and have the opportunity to ask questions,” said Butler Jr. “I’m so impressed, that I want to work for the Corps of Engineers.”

May 4, 2017 - A group of students and teachers from Martin Luther King, Maplewood, Hillsboro, and Nashville School of the Arts High schools and four college students from Tennessee State University during their visit. A team of engineering professionals from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District welcomed the group for a Corps career overview and tour of the Old Hickory Lock and Dam in Hendersonville, Tenn. (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers photo by Mark Rankin)
May 4, 2017 - A group of students and teachers from Martin Luther King, Maplewood, Hillsboro, and Nashville School of the Arts High schools and four college students from Tennessee State University during their visit. A team of engineering professionals from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District welcomed the group for a Corps career overview and tour of the Old Hickory Lock and Dam in Hendersonville, Tenn. (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers photo by Mark Rankin)

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District promotes entrepreneurship programs that mentor and educates students on STEM careers, and host events and tours that encourages learning in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The partnership between the community and schools is great way for the kids to apply what they are learning in the classroom, said Jim Woodbury, ninth through 12th grade science teacher at Martin Luther King Magnet High School.

The students and teachers soaked up the information from the Corps, and the students left with more knowledge that will help them with making informed decisions about their future.

“I am very thankful for the Corps to provide us the opportunity to visit the hydro-electric dam,” said Woodbury. “I’ve learned so much in person that I teach in class in theory.”

By Mark Rankin, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Provided through DVIDS
Copyright 2017

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