News: Corps hosts University of Tennessee Martin STEM students at Lake Barkley
Story by Mark Rankin
KUTTAWA, Ky.– U.S. Army Corps of Engineer, Nashville District employees at the Lake Barkley Resource Center, Lock and Dam hosted students and faculty from the University of Tennessee at Martin Hydrology and Hydraulics class for a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math tour today.
Michael Looney, Natural Resource program manager at the Lake Barkley Resource Center, Bob Sneed, chief of Water Management and Jamie Holt, power project specialist at the Lake Barkley power plant, welcomed nine students and four faculty members for a tour of the Lake Barkley resource center, power plant, lock and dam.
The team welcomed the students and Sneed began the tour with a brief classroom presentation of the systematic approach to water management of the Cumberland River System and explained what takes place at the at the Lake Barkley Lock and Dam project.
“I think the STEM program is a great match with the engineering college students because we are able to show them what happens in the real world of engineering,” Sneed said.
Following an opening orientation and introduction of description of maintenance tools used at the power plant, Holt described the day-to-day power plant operations, the function of the four General Electric generators, and the ongoing maintenance progress of the 270-ton rotor assembly from unit one. It is being rehabilitated because it suffered a phase-to-ground fault resulting in an electrical fire that damaged the generator windings 18 months ago.
Holt guided the group into the power plant, showed the damaged generator, turbine, major components and provided them an opportunity to get close to the large rotator assembly. He told the group to ask questions and learn all they could about hydropower generation, navigation lock and dam structures, operations, because it will help them in future classes and increase their knowledge of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math career fields.
“This was a once in a life time opportunity for these students to see this type of maintenance being performed and it’s fun to help them understand it,” said Holt.
Robert Reeves, a senior electrical engineering student, said he joined the tour because of inspiration he gained from a trip to Hoover Dam near Las Vegas.
“I have always been fascinated with engineering but to see the generator actually torn apart … well, that’s pretty amazing,” said Reeves.
Sneed said the group looked at the electrical generation taking place, observed the turbines and actually saw them being repaired. They also looked at the structure up close, watched the gate operating, saw the water being discharged into the river, and visited the lock operations.
After a tour of the power plant, Looney guided the group across the lock and dam structures, and the group watched the hydropower units churn large amount of water. He even provided a short presentation on the importance of environmental stewardship and natural resource management at the district’s lake projects.
Dr. Greg Nail, professor from the University of Tennessee at Martin Hydrology and Hydraulics class, said he is very appreciative that his students were given the opportunity to see the generator up close and personal.
“This tour was great,” said Nail. “It brings to life the things they have studied in class, brings motivation to the students. These activities work to enhance the students’ interest in science and engineering,” he added.
Nail said when students are going through their science and mathematics education sometimes it is difficult for them to understand how these studies relate to college and real-world engineering.
“This was an extremely good visit for the Nashville District and provided the students with some insight on how we operate here at the Lake Barkley project,” said Sneed. “I think they left with a good amount of knowledge and through the many questions and comments, showed us they were happy.”
Sneed said it was good to have these young people visit and interact with working engineers who could share real world experience and give them tips or a roadmap of sorts on how to become an engineer.
The Nashville District STEM program is a great opportunity to educate students and is a success because the students receive a broad overview of the Corps and specific jobs that translates to science, math and engineering concepts.
The Nashville District is committed to teaming with high schools colleges and organizations like the University of Tennessee Martin to strengthen science, technology, engineering and mathematics education programs that inspire current and future generations of college students to pursue careers in these engineering fields.
For more information on how to set up participation in a similar program, please visit the district’s STEM website at http://www.lrn.usace.army.mil/Missions/EngineeringandConstruction/STEMSupport.aspx.
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