NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Sept. 16, 2016) – Corps of Engineers employees shared their experiences and expertise with students today for Science and Engineering Day at Stratford STEM Magnet High School where they received information about careers in hydropower, navigation, natural resources, water management and emergency operations.
The seventh and eighth graders from the Stratford STEM School Lower Campus and high school students toured the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District’s Emergency Command and Control Vehicle and visited several booths featuring Corps’ missions where they asked questions and learned about potential academic and career possibilities.
Stephanie Coleman, who helped organize the Corps’ participation at the event, said it was a great opportunity to showcase the opportunities the Corps of Engineers has to offer young people preparing for a future in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics careers.
“It is always fascinating to see the excitement on the students’ faces when they can actually interact with the employees, ask probing questions, and get hands-on interaction versus just having to sit and listen to a presentation,” Coleman said. “Some of them actually ‘get it’ – they are engaged and understand the importance of starting now thinking about what they want to do. We definitely make a difference. I think if we continue doing what we’re doing with them, they won’t soon forget us, and the Corps of Engineers will benefit from their talents as employees of the future.”
Numerous groups of students rotated to different stations throughout the morning and filled out worksheets to compile information about the various jobs and skillsets in the science and engineering field being presented by civilian companies and government agencies.
At the Corps’ booths, students learned about water management and how the Nashville District provides flood risk management to the region.
Ben Rohrbach, chief of the Nashville District Hydrology and Hydraulics Branch and currently the acting chief of the Engineering and Construction Division, showed students how rainwater is managed with detention basins, wetlands, levies and responsible use of lands in floodplains.
“What we are doing today is educate the kids on the effects of development are on stream flows and flooding risks. So we talked to them about natural wetlands and natural forests and how those function to help reduce flood risk and flows in streams,” Rohrbach said. “We want them to be aware of the connection between the ways we use the land… and get them interested in natural sciences or engineering or things related to that.”
The students also learned that the Nashville District maintains 14 navigation locks and more than 1,100 miles of navigable river channels on the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers, which represents 10 percent of the U.S. Inland Waterway System.
Mason Carter, civil engineering technician in the Nashville District’s Navigation Branch, demonstrated how navigation locks operate and explained what education is required to work in the navigation career field.
“I was explaining what a lock is, how it works, basically saying it’s an elevator for boats to get through our dams,” Carter said. “I shared that keeping locks operating is important to keep shipping lanes open and because it is a cheaper and more efficient way to transport goods.”
Bobby Jackson, a planner in the Nashville District’s Natural Resources Management Branch, shared information about how Corps employees are stewards of federal lands, waters and park resources at Corps-operated and maintained water resources projects.
“I shared a lot of different things regarding natural resources management as a whole, with recreation being one aspect of it,” Jackson said. “Employment opportunity was one of the main things they wanted to know about along with career development and education they would need for a career in natural resources.”
Jackson explained that the interaction with the students is designed to provide them broad career overviews, and the Corps’ involvement is about mapping out what students need to do to achieve their career goals.
Students also learned about hydropower from Capt. James Trombly, who explained that the Nashville District operates nine multi-purpose projects with hydroelectric power plants in the Cumberland River Basin.
“I can tell some of them have had some exposure to dams and hydropower and electricity, and some of them have never really heard about it,” Trombly said. “It’s exciting that they are understanding some pretty complex systems.”
Jaylen James, ninth grade, said it was interesting to learn how water goes through a dam and generates hydropower.
“What the water does is it spins the fan and the fan creates electrical current,” James said. “I like to take stuff apart and put it back together, so I find this interesting to learn.”
James said attending a STEM school and being involved in activities like the career fair is helping him to grow. “I’m learning a lot,” he said.
Trombly added that some students like James were very inquisitive about career opportunities with the Corps and that he encouraged them to keep what the Corps of Engineers has to offer in the back of their minds as they continue further with STEM education.
In the parking lot behind the school, James Sowell, safety officer with the Nashville District Operations Division, and Kevin Gatlin, Emergency Management, showcased the command and control vehicle that provides emergency response teams with network connectivity and communications for forward-deployed emergency response personnel.
The students were able to see the vehicle inside and out and learned more about its mission from Sowell, who has more than 40 years of federal service and 25 years in emergency operations.
“It’s been wonderful. They’ve asked questions and it is real interesting when you can explain to them what you do. They didn’t know that these things existed,” Sowell said. “I let them know we answer any type of disaster… and that communication is key to anything that we do.”
The students soaked up the information from the Corps and other corporate partners and left with more knowledge that will help them with making informed decisions about their future.
Michael Lee, eighth grade science teacher at the Stratford Lower Campus, said Career Day is valuable because students get to explore and actually meet people in the various career fields, and they get to observe demonstrations in a controlled environment.
The Nashville District supports STEM programs and is an official partner of the Stratford STEM Magnet High School. For more information, go to the district’s STEM Support Page. For more news and information, follow the district on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/nashvillecorps.