Federal partnership brings students closer to Mississippi River, STEM
By Mary Markos
St. Louis District
ST. LOUIS, Mo. — Nearly 8,000 children of all ages played in the Mississippi River and learned to navigate the Mighty Miss Feb. 25-26, 2012 when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers St. Louis District and the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Upper Mississippi River participated in Engineer Week at the St. Louis Science Center.
The children got their hands wet while placing structures in a micro-model representing a section of the river. The activity illustrated how river engineers address a variety of sedimentation issues using river training structures, such as those seen in the St. Louis Harbor.
The children also learned about the science behind building a levee allowed the children to better understand the structures many of them live behind. These structures help to reduce flood risk along the river.
Volunteers demonstrated the concept of buoyancy to the children before teaching them how mathematics is used in navigating the Mississippi River, the third largest watershed in the world.
The Corps and the Coast Guard worked together to educate the children on river navigation, which brings more than 58 million tons of cargo between Minneapolis-St. Paul and St. Louis every year.
Partners on the river, the two organizations work together to ensure the navigation channel is maintained and clearly marked. Through a system of locks and dams, the Corps maintains a 670-mile, 9-foot-deep navigation channel on the Mississippi River from Minneapolis-St. Paul to St. Louis. The Corps maintains the channel from St. Louis to the Gulf as "open river," or without locks and dams. The Coast Guard marks the entire channel with buoys and maintains navigation aids. Both organizations work to indentify and inform mariners of navigation hazards.
Engineer Week activities not only focused on the engineering aspect of river navigation, they highlighted various Science, Technology, Engineering and Math career opportunities available to students.
Educating students in STEM-related concepts and career fields is a passion held by both the Corps and Coast Guard commander.
"As an engineer, I know how important science, technology, engineering and math are to the development of our country," Col. Chris Hall, St. Louis District commander, said. "They are critical to our future."
To further promote STEM, the two organizations have partnered in an outreach program that gives inner-city students the opportunity to explore STEM-concepts through hands on activities and field trips.
Much like the activities at the Science Center, the program gives students an in-depth look at the science around them and further allows students to get to the know one of our nation's greatest resources, the Mississippi River.