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Local teachers develop STEM curriculum through Corps externships

Nashville District Public Affairs
Published July 26, 2016
John Bell, a hydropower engineer at the Old Hickory Power Plant in Hendersonville, Tenn., explains how water is generated, it's functions and how it is managed to Stratford STEM High School teachers during an externship with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District July 21, 2016.

John Bell, a hydropower engineer at the Old Hickory Power Plant in Hendersonville, Tenn., explains how water is generated, it's functions and how it is managed to Stratford STEM High School teachers during an externship with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District July 21, 2016.

John Bell, hydropower engineer at the Old Hickory Power Plant in Hendersonville, Tenn., explains how water circulates at the dam and how it is managed to Stratford STEM High School teachers during an externship with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District July 21, 2016.

John Bell, hydropower engineer at the Old Hickory Power Plant in Hendersonville, Tenn., explains how water circulates at the dam and how it is managed to Stratford STEM High School teachers during an externship with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District July 21, 2016.

John Bell, a hydropower engineer at the Old Hickory Power Plant in Hendersonville, Tenn., explains gages and generation to Stratford STEM High School teachers during an externship with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District July 21, 2016.

John Bell, a hydropower engineer at the Old Hickory Power Plant in Hendersonville, Tenn., explains gages and generation to Stratford STEM High School teachers during an externship with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District July 21, 2016.

John Bell, hydropower engineer at the Old Hickory Power Plant in Hendersonville, Tenn., explains how water circulates at the dam and how it is managed to Stratford STEM High School teachers during an externship with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District July 21, 2016.

John Bell, hydropower engineer at the Old Hickory Power Plant in Hendersonville, Tenn., explains how water circulates at the dam and how it is managed to Stratford STEM High School teachers during an externship with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District July 21, 2016.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (July 26, 2016) – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District is committed to supporting science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs in partnership with local educators.  Three Stratford STEM Magnet High School teachers recently participated in an externship at the Nashville District Headquarters and at Old Hickory Dam that will help them develop project-based curriculum and facilitate applied learning.

Fred Copeland, capstone teacher; Lauren Guengerich, biology teacher; and Eric Bloom, social studies teacher; interacted with Nashville District water managers June 21 and learned how the Corps provides collaborative water resource engineering solutions, public infrastructure management, and environmental stewardship for the Cumberland-Tennessee River systems. 

Carol Haynes, Nashville District Equal Employment Opportunity chief; Allison Walker, natural resources specialist; Rob Baulsir, mechanical engineer and STEM Program coordinator; and Ben Rohrbach, Nashville District Engineering and Construction chief; welcomed the teachers and emphasized to them that the Corps of Engineers is committed to empowering teachers in support of STEM programs and the importance of STEM education for future potential Corps employees.

Rohrbach provided a detailed briefing about Corps history, Corps leadership, organization, navigation, flood risk reduction, hydropower, recreation, emergency management, real estate and construction.  He also talked about operations and missions, and explained how the Nashville District serves the region and the nation by providing collaborative water resource engineering solutions, world class public infrastructure management, and environmental stewardship for the Cumberland-Tennessee River Systems.  

“It’s great you are here and we appreciate you taking the time out your busy schedules to learn about the Corps and what we do,” Rohrbach said.  “STEM subjects are key to helping students understand engineering, shaping their young minds for the future because you are on the front line to develop a curriculum, educate and prepare students for their future.”

The teachers interacted and asked questions to water managers, hydropower engineers, geologists and geotechnical engineers and learned how the Corps provides collaborative water resource engineering solutions, public infrastructure management, and environmental stewardship.

 The group gathered at the Cumberland River Operations Center June 22 for instruction in Instrumentation.  They also boarded a vessel, locked through Old Hickory Lock and then toured the hydropower plant.

“This has been a great experience for me,” said Copeland.  “I can’t explain how much the instruction and tour has opened my eyes about engineering, its functions, the importance of managing water and the variety of types of jobs available to our STEM students.”

The idea behind the partnership between the Corps and Stratford teachers is to collaborate on the development of project based learning curriculum for STEM classes.

Walker, one of the coordinators of the externship project for the Nashville District, said the opportunity to host educators and help provide students with practical instruction is such a worthy endeavor.

“This was exciting to host the teachers and see them respond to the information they were provided,” said Walker.   “They expressed how they were able to draw creative ties to the classroom in a manner not thought of and I'm looking forward to seeing what the final project they come up with looks like.”

Robert Dillingham, Water Management specialist; Sarah Wiles, geologist; Don Getty, project manager for the Kentucky Lock Addition Project; Lacy Thomason, project manager; and Baulsir presented detailed information on water management; water quality; hydropower; geology and geotechnical engineering; civil & structural engineering; electrical & mechanical engineering; and water management operations.

Bill Walker, geologist; Scott Massa, geologist; shared information about instrumentation at Corps’ dams, and John Bell, hydropower trainee engineer; Joseph Conaster, Power Plant superintendent; provided a tour and talked about the powerhouse’s many functions and management of the water.  Mark Worley, lock master, provided additional insight on navigation and lock functions.

“It is great to have the opportunity to see the teachers out here learning about what we do,  so they can take it back to the classrooms and educate students on real-world STEM jobs,” said Bell.

Bell said the group was very attentive to all the information he presented and thinks providing the instruction and tour is a great idea.

The teachers listened and interacted constantly during the two-day externship because they want to learn about the Corps of Engineers and then expose students to scientific and engineering processes.

“I really have enjoyed the tour and learning so much about the Army Corps of Engineers that I did not know, especially how the water is collected and managed,” Guengerich said.

 Bloom said that the group is very excited to partner with the Corps to learn and it is great to gather such a large quantity of information to develop project-based lessons for students.

“Having the opportunity to be on this tour of the dam has simply blown my mind and I think it is an excellent way for me to get ideas and provide my students a variety of different types of opportunities for them to study,” said Bloom.

Walker added that it is very important that the Corps continue to recognize the need to prioritize STEM subjects and broaden the relationship between STEM teachers and the Corps of engineers.  She said the time shared through the recent externship allowed Stratford STEM teachers to engage with STEM professionals in a real-world setting and to observe methods and work tasks.

“Engaging with teachers is an important part of this process for us to gain valuable employees and other community industries because it  allows teachers the ability to share with us the exciting things going on with high schoolers in the STEM fields and how we can help grow those students through engineering,” said Walker.

The Nashville District is supportive of STEM initiatives and has a rich history of supporting the mentorship of students in local schools.

Baulsir said his focus for helping educate STEM students has been to promote the district’s existing STEM activities, and initiate new partnerships with K-12 schools and universities. 

“It is important that we mostly educate high school students about STEM subjects early because this is where youth decide their profession and concentration for college,” he said.

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