OU leads STEM education project with local high school

Staff Report

Students at Piketon High School are producing the sixth Annual Site Environmental Report (ASER) Student Summary, providing information to the public about the US Department of Energy’s progress on cleanup work at the former Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant near Piketon.

The ASER Student Summary reports are part of the Voinovich School’s PORTSfuture project, funded by a grant from the US Department of Energy Office of Environmental Management Portsmouth/Paducah Project Office. PORTSfuture collaborates with site stakeholders and leverages Ohio University resources and expertise in a variety of activities to support the cleanup of the former uranium enrichment facility. As cleanup progresses, the local community reuse organization, the Southern Ohio Diversification Initiative (SODI), will focus on development of DOE land and facilities for economic diversification and to promote regional economic development.

Now in its seventh year, the grant provides a STEM-focused educational experience to high school students in Pike County, resulting in the production of the site’s ASER Student Summary report. The student-produced ASER Student Summary informs and educates the public about the site cleanup activities by describing the effectiveness of environmental monitoring and surveillance of the area, and noting if the site meets environmental standards and requirements.

“I think the project has successfully demonstrated to the students the historical importance of the PORTS site to Pike County and the surrounding areas. It also highlights the site’s future-use potential for the economic stability of Pike County moving forward,” Daniel Kloepfer, Voinovich School research associate leading this year’s ASER project, said.

During the development of the report, the students will learn about the cleanup process and past successes through a series of subject matter expert seminars provided by site workers, DOE, and higher education institutions that serve the region. The seminars also include the history of the site, as well as cleanup activities and areas of importance related to the remediation efforts. The seminars give students not only the information they need to work on the report, but also introduces them to careers in the environmental field.

“DOE officials, school personnel, students who participate, and others in the Pike County community highly regard this project. The ASER Student Summary project provides a valuable learning experience that encourages students to explore careers in STEM fields including environmental engineering,” Stephanie Howe, Voinovich School project director for the grant, said. “It also demonstrates DOE’s commitment to providing community outreach in STEM education.”

Students also learn about the site and the issues through assigned readings, discussions with members of the Site Specific Advisory Board, and guided tours. They meet with DOE leaders, tour the DOE PORTS site and visit a state park where they participate in a water quality testing demonstration with OU faculty and staff.

The final ASER Student Summary report will include local and student artwork, photographs, and other graphics, creating a document that is both informative and interesting for the reader. The project will conclude with an end-of-the-year celebration at Piketon High School where DOE PORTS leadership and the school principal will honor the students who participated in the project. The final report and video summary will be available at portsfuture.com late summer of 2017.

Staff Report