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STEM Students fascinated with Cheatham Lock and Dam

 

Written by Mark Rankin
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Nashville District

U.S. Army Corps of EngineersAshland City, TN – A team of engineering professionals from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District welcomed a group of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math summer camp students today for an overview of Corps careers and tour of the Cheatham Lock and Dam.

Corps subject matter experts who work at the Cheatham Lake, and the Lock and Dam within the fields of science, technology, engineering and math, and natural resources, shared their job experience with 14 students and three teachers attending a STEM summer camp sponsored by the Clement Railroad Hotel Museum in Dickson, Tennessee, during their visit.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineer, Nashville District employees Jamie Holt, a power project specialist at the Lake Barkley power plant shows students and faculty from University of Tennessee at Martin Hydrology and Hydraulics class maintenance being performed on a generator at the Lake Barkley power plant. (Mark Rankin, USACE)

U.S. Army Corps of Engineer, Nashville District employees Jamie Holt, a power project specialist at the Lake Barkley power plant shows students and faculty from University of Tennessee at Martin Hydrology and Hydraulics class maintenance being performed on a generator at the Lake Barkley power plant. (Mark Rankin, USACE)

According to Michele Anderson, STEM coordinator and executive director, Clement Railroad Hotel Museum, the idea behind the tour is to provide new possibilities for female youth to understand STEM subjects.

“This is a great way for our STEM program to find innovative ways of educating and exposing our young students to STEM subjects in middle, high school and college, so that they think differently about their career choices,” said Anderson.

Park Ranger Dina Henninger, Cheatham Lake, escorted the group and provide an overview of her job.

The group met with Joshua Barker, senior power plant electrician from Cheatham Lock and Dam who gave the group a safety briefing and introduction of maintenance tools and gear used at the power plant.

Barker also described the day-to-day power plant operations and the function of three large General Electric generators used for hydropower generation. The group toured several floors, witnessed the operation of the turbine shaft and other major components, and the large rotator assembly.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineer, Nashville District employee Michael Looney, Natural Resource Program Manager at the Lake Barkley Resource Center talks with students and faculty from University of Tennessee at Martin Hydrology and Hydraulics class about lock operations during a tour of the Lake Barkley Barkley lock and dam. (Mark Rankin, USACE)

U.S. Army Corps of Engineer, Nashville District employee Michael Looney, Natural Resource Program Manager at the Lake Barkley Resource Center talks with students and faculty from University of Tennessee at Martin Hydrology and Hydraulics class about lock operations during a tour of the Lake Barkley Barkley lock and dam. (Mark Rankin, USACE)

Barker said it was a great opportunity for him to show the students the units, tools and functions of the power plant and help them learn about the district’s infrastructure and engineering expertise.

After the power plant tour and a brief lunch at a nearby pavilion, Henninger and Skeeter Deskins, lock master at Cheatham lock, led the group across the Cheatham Navigation Lock located on the opposite side of the dam.

Deskins described the day-to-day operations that occurs at the lock and how the Tennessee-Cumberland Rivers System is a major part of the nationwide network of waterways that are crucial to day-to-day commerce of the United States.

“This is our third tour this year and I really like giving them and explaining how navigation and the lock works,” said Deskins. I like seeing the expressions on their faces when I tell them how it operates and they pause with a blank look on their face in amazement, when they learn something they did not know.”

At the end of the tour, 11-year-old Jade Ibarras, and 12-year-old Anabeth Thompson, both from Dickson middle school agreed the whole concept of a lock and dam and the hydropower process was a mind blowing experience.

“This is awesome– I thought I would be scared, but this is great,” said Thompson. “I don’t know which part was the coolest, seeing the power plant or walking across the navigational lock.”

Deskins explained how water from the navigational lock is raised and lowered, 11-year-old Ibarras took steady notes and was ready to ask questions.
“Anyone want to take a guess at how many barges generally lock through the Cheatham Locks and Dam during a typical day?” Deskins asked the students.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineer, Nashville District employees Michael Looney, Natural Resource program manager at the Lake Barkley Resource Center, Bob Sneed, Chief of Water Management and Jamie Holt, a power project specialist at the Lake Barkley power plant welcomed nine students and four faculty from the University of Tennessee at Martin Hydrology and Hydraulics class for a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math to tour today at the Lake Barkley Resource Center, Lock and Dam. (Mark Rankin, USACE)

U.S. Army Corps of Engineer, Nashville District employees Michael Looney, Natural Resource program manager at the Lake Barkley Resource Center, Bob Sneed, Chief of Water Management and Jamie Holt, a power project specialist at the Lake Barkley power plant welcomed nine students and four faculty from the University of Tennessee at Martin Hydrology and Hydraulics class for a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math to tour today at the Lake Barkley Resource Center, Lock and Dam. (Mark Rankin, USACE)

“How does the water come inside the lock? And how deep is this water?” asked Ibarras.

Deskins explained that an average of 25 to 30 commercial barges and sometimes recreational vessels lock through daily.

Samantha Lambright, a seventh grade teacher at Dickson Middle School, who is helping teach the two-week STEM camp, said she thinks it is very important for kids to take tours, apply what they are learning into the curriculum, apply key academic content, use their experiences to learn and use their critical thinking skills that will help them make informed decision for careers in STEM.

The students and teachers soaked up the information from the Corps, and the students left with more knowledge that will help them with making informed decisions about their future.

“By the sound of their non-stop chatter- I think they really enjoyed themselves,” said Lambright.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District promotes entrepreneurship programs that mentor and educates students on STEM careers, and host events and tours that encourages learning in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

My dad told me that I should choose a great job that I like and will have fun doing, and I think I have found it,” said Ibarras.” “I want to be an engineer and work for the Corps of Engineers.”

For more information about Cheatham Lock and Dam Tours or to schedule a group tour, contact the Cheatham Lake Resource Manager’s Office at 615.792.5697.

For more news, updates and information please follow the Nashville District on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/nashvillecorps. Old Hickory Lake is also on Facebook at www.facebook.com/oldhickorylake

The Nashville District is also on Twitter at www.twitter.com/nashvillecorps


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