News: Corps helps prepare STEM students at college summer program
Story by Mark Rankin
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District collaborated with the Tennessee State University Engineering Department to mentor science, technology, engineering and math students during a four-week National Summer Transportation Institute program June 30 through July 3, 2014, on the campus of TSU.
Lt. Col. John L. Hudson, commander of the Nashville District, and Corps employees mentored and instructed students on a variety of engineering classes and current district projects. Hudson kicked off the classroom portion Monday morning and told students the sky’s the limit working in the field of engineering. The students received briefings on Corps leadership, engineering, structures, projects, mobility, engineer jobs, lock and dams, watersheds, Corps operating processes’ and interacted with engineers and subject matter experts during a tour at the Old Hickory Lock and Dam in Hendersonville, Tennessee.
“This is an awesome program and I am learning so much information that I did not know before about the lock and dam,” said Dallas Moore, from Memphis, Tennessee.
Electrical Engineer Tennese Henderson, from the Nashville District Hydropower Branch, has coordinated the Corps program for the past 15 years and said Corps personnel find it gratifying to help mentor and shape STEM students into future engineers and scientists.
“Nashville District has one of the best STEM programs, and we keep proving that by the work we are doing in the community with our youth,” said Henderson. “It’s not about present employees, but it’s about our future employees and how we can help mentor, teach and steer them to the engineer fields.”
The NSTI program is a four-week residential program for students in grades 10-12. The program offers study in different types of transportation engineering majors, transportation careers.
The group studied, performed a variety of civil engineering methods, experiments, labs and toured various types of transportation facilities located in Tennessee.
According to Henderson, the NSTI program is only one element of TSU’s pre-college program with a goal of exposing elementary through high school students to the advantages of STEM education. Students from Tennessee, Mississippi, California, Ohio and Georgia were invited to attend.
Henderson said this year’s program is even better than before and we are happy to be a part of the program and contribute to the success of NSTI.
Lt. Gen. Thomas Bostick, USACE commander, is a huge proponent of supporting STEM initiatives and encourages the entire organization to be involved with schools in communities across the nation.
In addition, Bostick recognized the need to support the Department of Defense school system, and the general signed a memorandum of agreement May 20, 2013, with the Department of Defense Education Activity formalizing a partnership. The plan calls for Corps’ STEM professionals to engage students about civil works functions such as environmental protection projects and emergency response missions.
The Nashville District is supportive of the general’s STEM initiatives and has a rich history of supporting the mentorship of students in local schools. The district began hosting teacher externships this summer to provide some of the needed field training covering a wide variety of topics.
According to Henderson, NTSI is the district’s oldest STEM initiative.
“Our STEM program is working great as we continue to educate young people build on their strengths and learn through teaching what it takes to be a good engineer,” said Henderson.
Moises Tenorio-Garcia, NTSI student class leader and junior from John F. Kennedy High School, San Francisco, plans to attend college next year and was excited to be a part of the class that toured Old Hickory. He said he now wants to become a mechanical engineer.
“After my tour, I understand how math and science interacts with technology in engineering, and after talking with the Hydro Power engineers, they make it look simple,” said Garcia.
Hudson said the purpose of the lectures and tours is to allow the students to work with park rangers, biologists, engineers and learn about how the Corps provides engineering on a daily basis.
Jeff Ross, chief, Navigation Branch Nashville District, gave a presentation on the nation’s inland waterways and the Corps’ responsibilities for the protection of navigation and feels the students absorbed the information well and believes they will make a difference in the coming years for the nation.
"This is a good group of young people, full of questions and attentive,” said Ross.
“It is fun to know that we are preparing them with engineering fundamentals and equipping them to keep the country moving in the future,” said Ross.
According to Hudson, the Nashville District recognizes the critical role that STEM education plays in enabling the country to remain the economic and technological leaders of the global marketplace, and enabling the Department of Defense and Army in providing for the security of our Nation. The district is committed to teaming with others to strengthen STEM-related programs that inspire current and future generations of young people to pursue careers in STEM fields.
The Nashville District has offices located throughout the Cumberland River Basins that are staffed with engineers, scientists, and other professionals interested in helping educators inspire kids to pursue careers in scientific and engineering fields.