By Tracy Robillard
SAVANNAH, Ga. — Nineteen local high school students got a "sampling" of what it's like to be a hydraulic engineer during a boat tour of the Savannah Harbor, July 25.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Savannah District, in partnership with the Society of American Military Engineers (SAME) Savannah Post, hosted the tour as part of a Jenkins High School summer engineering camp.
Corps' hydraulic engineers and SAME members Beth Williams, Jason Lavecchia, and Bryan Robinson showed the students how to use a water quality sonde, or probe, to sample dissolved oxygen and salinity levels in the harbor's waters.
The students took turns lowering the probe overboard at four different locations in the harbor. Once the probe is submerged, optical lenses inside it can instantaneously sample the water and produce a data reading on an attached handheld device. The device detects six different measurements of water quality. It also stores data for later use.
Students learned how salinity levels change with the tide and how dissolved oxygen levels change with depth.
"As part of our jobs as hydraulic engineers, we monitor water quality in areas where the Corps is performing maintenance dredging of the shipping channel," Lavecchia said. "We want to ensure that we maintain appropriate levels of dissolved oxygen, which becomes even more critical during the hot summer months, when the levels typically decline."
The students also learned about the Corps of Engineers' role in the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project.
"They often hear about the harbor deepening in the news, since it's a huge project for Savannah and the region. We want to help them be informed about what's going on in the community," Williams said.
The tour also included an up-close look at the mammoth cranes and freight containers at the Georgia Ports Authority Garden City Terminal.
The Jenkins High School annual engineering camp encourages students to pursue career paths in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, commonly referred to as STEM. The Corps of Engineers has been involved with this camp in previous years, but this was the first harbor tour for the group.
"Engineering is such a broad career field. We want to help students see the many facets of engineering and discover what areas appeal to them as potential careers," Lavecchia said.