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Posted 4/7/2017

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By By Mark Rankin
Nashville District Public Affairs

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (April 6, 2016) – A group of technical experts from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District evaluated a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Expo and staffed an exhibit at the Tennessee State University Gentry Center today.

Jimmy Waddle, Engineering and Construction Division chief; Ben Rohrbach, Hydraulics and Hydrology Branch chief; Mark Abernathy, Visual Information specialist with the  Corps of Engineers Information Technology Operations; Lori Neubert, commander’s secretary; and David Bogema, civil engineer in the Water Management section; served as evaluators for the 5th annual Middle Tennessee STEM Innovation Hub expo.

Carol Haynes, Equal Employment Office chief, and David Claussen, EEO specialist, staffed the exhibit and talked with students about Corps STEM subjects.

 “It was a perfect day to have so many students here in this great learning environment,” said Dr. Thomas J. Cheatham, Middle Tennessee STEM Innovation Hub and Tennessee Math, Science and Technology Center Hub director at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro.  “We are especially happy the Corps is a part of this program and appreciate the volunteers helping us honor these students projects and to showcase their knowledge about STEM subjects.”

The STEM Expo showcased original constructed projects designed and built by middle and high school students from the STEM Hub partnering school districts. 

Waddle said he was impressed with the creativity and originality from the students projects.  Bogema added that he too was impressed with their approach to ingenuity and problem solving skills through STEM projects

“I’m blow away,” said Bogema.  “It’s like the sky is the limit and they just come in with no preconceived notions.  They take a look at the problem and come up with all kinds of neat ideas.”

More than 300 students attended the expo with teams producing and managing 140 projects from counties in Middle Tennessee, including Metro Nashville public schools, Sumner County, Clarksville-Montgomery County school system, and private schools.

According to Cheatham, the program is designed to encourage students to enroll or challenge themselves in STEM fields, which involves designing, building, processing and analyzing STEM questions and problems.

He said the projects help students investigate and discover key academic content and  practice skills through hands on learning, which encourages students to engage in projects involving a process of inquiry.

“This program allows students to use their STEM assets and experiences to learn and apply key academic content, make informed decisions,  practice communication and collaboration, and use their critical thinking skills that will help them make informed decision,” said Dr. Regina Etter, instructional lead coach for 17 STEM teachers in the area from Metro Nashville Public Schools.  

Etter said the STEM expo is open to all students in middle and high schools in grades 5 through 12 from partnering school districts.  The five project categories for competition include are STEM Research, Engineering I, Engineering II, Agricultural STEM, and Technology).

“STEM plays a very large role in Middle Tennessee,” said Etter.  “We hope through the program that students are productive and continue to increase their scores.”

She said Metro Nashville Public schools continue to encourage more students to participate in STEM activities and to strongly consider STEM careers.

The Tennessee State University college of Engineering served as facility host sponsor for the event and Professor S. Keith Hargrove, dean of College of Engineering, thanked the students, teachers and parents for their participation in STEM.

At the awards ceremony, Waddle presented the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers award to Carson Fisher, a 7th grader at Robert E. Ellis Middle School in Hendersonville, Tenn. 

Fisher received a glass trophy and certificate for his project, a self-rising levee system. The Corps recognized the project for its innovation, creativity and research.

“I’m impressed with the level of the creativity each group put into their projects,” said Waddle.  “Carson blew us away because his project parallels the Corps mission. With some research and fine tuning, I think his project would actually work.”   

Fisher said he is thankful the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers recognized his project.

Seniors Sophia Hall and Ashley Pellum developed a real-world investigative project with their team from the Central Magnet High School in Murfreesboro, Tenn.  The project was developed by using filtered water with Okra seeds and salt. 

Bogema was interested in the filtration process and methods required that allows the okra to filter the water, and asked them about its applications. 

“It was fun to explain the project,” said Hall.  He (Bogema) was very interested in what we had learned about our project.” 

Neubert evaluated her first STEM expo and said she enjoyed taking the time talking with students and listening to the various groups introduce and explain their projects. 

“I was happy to help evaluate the projects,” said Neubert.  “I was also very impressed by the level of technology and information each group used to describe and explain their projects.” 

Waddle said during the expo he met a bunch of kids that gave him more confidence in the future of engineering.

“It is great that we are involved in our schools STEM activities, college fairs and community events so that we can hire these young smart people to work in the Corps of Engineers,” said Waddle.

The Nashville District supports STEM programs and is an official partner of the Stratford STEM Magnet High School. For more information, go to http://www.lrn.usace.army.mil/Missions/Engineering-and-Construction/STEM-Support/.  

(The public can obtain news, updates and information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District on the district’s website at http://www.lrn.usace.army.mil, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/nashvillecorps, and on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/nashvillecorps.)


5th annual Middle Tennessee STEM Innovation Hub expo. Carol Haynes Agricultural Ben Rohrbach Carson Fisher Central Magnet High School corps Corps of Engineers David Bogema David Claussen Demetria Dotson Dr. Thomas Cheatham Ellis Middle School engineering Engineering and Construction Engineering and Mathematics Engineering I Engineering II Gentry Center Jimmy Waddle l STEM Lori Neubert Mark Abernathy Mark Rankin Metro Nashville public schools Middle Tennessee State University Middle Tennessee STEM Innovation Hub Nashville District Nashville District Nathanael Lopez Olivia Hou San’ Niece Harris Evans science Science Expo STEM STEM Expo STEM Magnet High School STEM Research STEM Support Strat STEM High School technical experts technology Tennessee State University Engineering