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 9 through July 7, 2013.
Corps personnel mentored and instructed students on a variety of engineering classes and current projects. The students also visited Old Hickory Lock and Dam, received briefings on operating processes, and interacted with engineers and subject matter experts. Electrical Engineer Tennese Henderson, Nashville District Hydropower Branch, has coordinated the Corps program for the last 10 years. She said the Corps has helped sponsor the TSU National Summer Transportation Institute program for the last 15 years and Nashville District members really enjoy interacting with the students.
"We are just happy to have been a part of this program for the last 15 years," said Henderson. "Our STEM program is working great as we continue to educate and help these young people build character, and understand what it takes to be a good engineer." 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.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.
According to Carol Haynes, the district's employment opportunity officer, the participation in the NSTI program is the district's oldest STEM initiative. It is part of the district's culture through education and its involvement is one of the original objectives established as a part of the Advancing Minorities' Interest in Engineering partnership with Tennessee State University. NSTI 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.
The NSTI program is a four-week residential program for students in grades 10-12 where they study different types of transportation engineering majors, engineering, transportation careers, study and perform a variety of civil engineering methods, experiments, labs and tour various types of transportation facilities in Tennessee and Alabama.
The students that participated are from Nashville, Memphis, Mississippi and Ohio and were invited to showcase their education initiatives.
Henderson recruited and scheduled district mentors and subject matter experts who instructed STEM subjects. They also provided hands-on mentoring for students who are either interested in becoming engineers or working for the Corps of Engineers.
"Who wants to be an engineer and who wants to work for the Corps of Engineers after you finish college?" Henderson asked. "We are here to provide them with an introduction to STEM and careers by individuals who are working in these fields every day."
Jessica Dedeaux, a high school senior from Stones High school in Wiggins, Miss., who plans to attend Tennessee State University in next year was excited to be a part of the class which toured various engineering facilities said wants to be a Mechanical Engineer.
"I'm happy to spend summer at TSU, and this is great to learn so much about the different types of engineers the Corps has working for them while seeing, talking and asking questions to the actual Corps engineers who operate the facilities like the Old Hickory Dam," said Dedeaux.
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.
According to Olga Beddingfield, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Power Project Manager for Old Hickory, J. Percy Priest and Cheatham Hydro Power Plants, the students are future engineers whose task it will be to improve infrastructure.
"I like the Transportation Institute and STEM program's because the major emphasis is youth education development, preparing for engineering Jobs of the future and equipping them to keep the country going," said Beddingfield. "I believe that giving our youth more opportunities to gain educational opportunities will continue to promote STEM, and provide a positive change that will allow them to be better engineers.
At the graduation, the students voted to have Mark Rankin, a public affairs specialist speak. "It was a great opportunity to speak to the student about STEM," said Rankin. "The students were energetic and enthusiastic about being in the program exposing them to project managers, engineers and subject matter personnel who are on the job is a great way to showcasing STEM." 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.