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Posted 6/28/2018

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By Mark Rankin
Nashville District Public Affairs


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (June 28, 2018) – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District has partnered with the Tennessee State University College of Engineering, Technology and Computer Science Department to mentor science, technology, engineering and math students during a four-week National Summer Transportation Institute program June 18 through June 28 on the campus of TSU.

The NSTI program is a residential, academic enrichment program used to improve STEM skills, provide awareness to high school students in grades 10 -12. 

Tennese Henderson, an electrical engineer and NSTI program coordinator from the Nashville District Hydropower Branch, led a team of USACE employees that provided hours of seamless instruction and motivation on how transportation works on the Cumberland and Tennessee River Basin.    

For the past 22 years, Corps engineers have navigated and inspired high school students toward careers in STEM by briefing, mentoring and instructing students on a variety of engineering, navigation, transportation careers, educating on current USACE projects and encouraging them to consider a variety of STEM-related courses of study in their higher education pursuits.

The students received briefings and toured the Old Hickory Lock and Dam in Hendersonville, Tenn. 

Maj. Justin Toole, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District deputy commander, opened the classroom portion Monday morning and highlighted to the students that the sky is the limit when considering the field of engineering.  He gave briefings on Corps history, the Nashville District’s role, leadership, engineering, structures, mobility, and jobs.

“We are happy to be a part of this program and to assist in helping our youth make great choices that will help them understand engineering better,” said Toole. “I was surprised at the quantity of questions and response.”    

John Tribble, chief navigation, presented an overviews on the nation’s inland waterways and navigation; Don Getty, project manager for the Kentucky Lock Addition Project, and Adam Walker, project manager for the Chickamauga Lock Replacement Project, presented overviews and updates of their projects.  

At the Old Hickory Power Plant, Senior Mechanic Mike Cocoran, and Mechanic John Bell provided a safety briefing, led the tour and introduced maintenance tools and gear used at the power plant.  Superintendent Joseph Conatser, explained described the day-to-day power plant operations and the function of four large General Electric generators used for hydropower generation.  He fielded questions and explained how water from the reservoir enters gate-controlled intakes into the powerhouse, rotates the turbines, and discharges through draft tubes into the river below the dam.  Generators, mounted on the same shafts with the turbines, produce the electric current.  It is increased in voltage by transformers and carried from the power plant by transmission lines leading from the switchyard.

“Does anyone know how much voltage runs your house?” asked Conatser.  “This generator produces 13,800 volts.  It comes out to the main power transformer where it gets stepped up to 69,000 volts and out to the power grid to provide power to your neighborhoods and your homes,” Conatser explained.

At Old Hickory Lock, Lock Master Sketter Deskins welcomed the students to the lock explained navigation procedures and demonstrated how a boat locks through the chamber. 

Cocoran and Deskins both said it was an excellent opportunity for him to show the students the powerhouse, dam, lock  and help them learn about the district’s infrastructure, engineering expertise and the economic impact on navigational waters.

“I really like giving tours and is always fun to see the look on their face when they learn something new,” said Deskins. “I think our tours offer a simple approach to how science, technology, transportation and engineering work.  I think it helps them understand what engineers do and what classes they will need that relates to real-world engineering.”

Henderson said she is pleased with the worth of knowledge each student leaves with each year.  She is appreciative to the employees that dedicate their time and energy to help make young people better and especially the Corps.   She said Corps of Engineers is committed to recruiting and helping young people understand the many possibilities of STEM jobs available.

“I’m very delighted with the success of young people that have went through this program and the interaction our instructors have with the students,” said Henderson.  “They look forward to meeting new students every year and providing them up-to-date information about the Corps and STEM that will has been proven through previous students that it works when they apply it,” said Henderson. 

Henderson said the program gives mentors and engineering subject matter experts the opportunity to share their knowledge and talk about STEM courses that make great career fields in the Corps and at other jobs.

“Our program hasn’t changed over the years, only with the exception of rotations of weeks, or a schedule change for personnel, it’s working,” said Henderson.”

According to NSTI program coordinator, Gale Brinkley, students in the program participate in enrichment and preparatory coursework in computing, mathematics and physics that introduce them to the discipline of engineering from an engineering and transportation perspective.  

“We are grateful for this partnership with the Corps,” said Brinkley.  “The Corps has a powerful STEM message and it shows every time our students interact with them during their presentations or tour their facilities,” said Brinkley.

During the weeks, the group studies and performs a variety of civil engineering methods, experiments, labs.   They also tour various types of transportation facilities located throughout Tennessee. She said their other activities includes hands-on labs, field trips and presentations by Corps employees and the Tennessee Department of Transportation.

Karah Godfrey, a high school junior from Anderson County High School in Knoxville, Tenn., was amazed at the size of the dam and was fascinated by the engineering.  She said she plans to attend a college at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Tenn., and wants to pursue an electrical or civil engineer degree in college.

“I’m glad I attended NSTI this summer and I’m having fun and learning a lot,” said Godfrey.  The experience was amazing and it is inspiring to learn so much,  so quickly  about the many things Corps employees do every day to make a lock and dam work,” said Godfrey.

Taelynn  Stovall, 17, a high school senior from Northeast high school in Clarksville, Tenn., is the daughter of Corps employee Calandra Stovall-Wilson and said since attending the camp, she has decided to attend Tennessee State University.  She plans to study engineering and music but hopes she can work for the Corps after graduation.

“This camp has been great,” said Stovall. “I’ve learned so much about the different types of engineers and the many jobs the Corps has to offer.”

Amari Meddling, 17, a high school junior from Hume Fogg High school in Nashville, Tenn., said he plans to attend a college in Georgia or Alabama, and is excited to be a part of this year’s class. He also wants to be a civil engineer or graphic designer.

 “I’m very happy to spend part of my summer at TSU,” said Meddling.   “This is great to learn so much about the different types of engineers the Corps has working for them while we get to visit, talk with and ask questions to real working engineers who operate the facilities like the Old Hickory Dam.”

Brevin Robinson, a sophomore at Overton High school, Memphis, Tenn., said she plans to study pharmaceuticals but now engineering is an option.

“I’ve got so many options that I want to look at this year,” said Robinson.  “My goal is to attend college, do well and be successful,” said Robinson. “I really enjoyed the speakers and information the Corps shared with the class.”

 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.

  “Our STEM program is working great and we are so proud to help educate young people,  build on their strengths and learn through teaching what it takes to help make them better young people and citizens,” said Henderson.

Henderson said the purpose of the lectures and tours is to allow the students to work directly with Corps employees and learn about how the Corps provides engineering on a daily basis.

"They had lots of questions about how our many Corps jobs involve STEM subjects and they were really engaged in knowing about our rivers, lakes, projects, and how the Corps maintains so much property,” said Tribble.

Deskins, briefed students about navigation operations and barge traffic and said the students were very interested in the many functions of the components and had the opportunity to see how the lock works, and ask many questions.

"It’s a good tour when students ask questions,” said Deskins.  “When student come visit, it gives us with the opportunity to tell them about our jobs, the trials and paths that it takes to enhance their learning and assist them with career choices that will help them make the right career decisions,” said Deskins. 

Terry Sheridan, NSTI counselor and math instructor said the partnership with the Corps helps bring home many simplicities of math because the students get to see how the various problems are solved with engineering.

“The instructors showed the students how science, technology, engineering and math come together through incredible structures like the lock and dam,” said Sheridan.  “I’ve been doing this seven years and I enjoy every trip.”  

Other Corps speakers included Mark Rankin, public affairs specialist, and Tenesse Henderson.

“These young men and women come from all over the country seeking information that will help them decide what path of education they will pursue, and it is gratifying to help mentor and shape students into future engineers and scientists,” said Henderson. “They are the future engineers who will build, maintain and manage our nation’s roads, infrastructure and waterways someday.”

This year students from Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina, District of Columbia, and Georgia.

Henderson said Corps offices are located throughout the Cumberland River Basin that are staffed with engineers, scientists, and other professionals interested in helping educators inspire kids to pursue careers in scientific and engineering fields.

 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.

 For more news and information visit the district’s website at www.lrn.usace.army.mil, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/nashvillecorps, and on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/nashvillecorps.)

Adam Walker Careers in STEM Chickamauga Lock civil engineering Cumberland River Don Getty electrical engineer Gale Brinkley-Johnson hydropower John Tribble Kentucky Lock Maj. Justin Toole Mark Rankin Nashville District nation’s inland waterways National Summer Transportation Institute National Summer Transportation Institute program nsti Old Hickory Lock Old Hickory Lock and Dam Science Technology Engineering and Math STEM STEM projects technology Tennese Henderson tennessee state university Tennessee State University Engineering Department Transportation Institute TSU U.S. Army Corps of Engineers USACE