News: Corps Water Management team provides STEM opportunities to TSU students
Story by Mark Rankin
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Water specialist engineers from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer Nashville District provided Tennessee State University college students with a lesson in Water Quality Management, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics at the J. Percy Priest lake, April 23, 2013.
As USACE continues its challenge to help increase the number of students who focus on preparatory courses leading to college degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), water management specialists from the Nashville District Water Management section are continuing the task of doing their part by providing students with an out-of-the-box experience that adds a different way of learning other than listening to lectures, working in a lab, and places them in an outdoor classroom setting.
Richard Tippitt, a hydraulic engineer from the water management section started with a brief overview of the Water Management system and its purpose, while Robert Sneed, the chief of the water management branch, Mark Campbell, a hydraulic engineer in water management loaded and Mario Beddingfield, a Hydraulic engineer in the water resources department and also an adjunct professor at TSU, loaded nine students onto two boats, and headed out onto J. Percy Priest lake.
The group stopped the boats, and with instruction, Sneed and Tippitt taught the fundamentals of water collection, instrumentation, used a Secchi disk and Kemmerer to take water quality measurements, retrieved water, test and analyze log water samples, collect data, study many facets of water and tie in previous classroom studies.
According to TSU junior, Thea Cole, one highlight of the class was the opportunity to work with electronic gages, use collection tools such as a Kemmerer, Secchi disk and learn specifically each instrument’s use.
“If they are looking at real environmental application, collecting and how to interpret field data and make decisions from it, this is the place,” said Tippitt. “This is taking classroom learning combining it with field experience and making proper decisions he said.”
Cole said, she these are a few tools that I’ve only read about and now I’m getting to use them in this environment.” The Civil Environmental Engineering major said she loves being outdoors close with nature and can’t think of anything else she would rather be doing.
Tippitt said, providing students with the opportunity to get out of the classroom and gathering information that helps us maintain our water system is critical. He said the group took electronic meter readings, learned various uses of instruments and looks forward to putting what they learned to use.
Equipping student with the proper skill is a tool they will use for a lifetime. The ultimate result is to produce data to use as examples instead of guess work.
“This is the best way for students to learn,” said Tippitt. “This environment allows students to understand why spend so much time in classes, labs and understanding environmental issues.”
Tippitt said water management is important to support civilization. We can’t live without water so it’s important to know about it, protect it and teach others how to properly use it.”
According Sneed, STEM is important to the Nashville District because it allows the Corps an opportunity to help rebuild student interest in STEM courses and career fields and provides the on–hand experience to college students and shows them what we do every day as engineers.
“It’s vital that the Corps continues to afford valued training and take advantage of the opportunity to instill some of our skills to these students,” said Sneed. “Who knows, one day these students may be taking my place,” said Sneed.