The U.S. Department of Energy is interested in students like Brooke Childers, a 16-year-old junior at Waverly High School who attended DOE’s Science Alliance event at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant near Piketon, Ohio, on October 2.
Science Alliance is an interactive event that showcases a range of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)-related subjects and the fields associated with them. The event is part of DOE’s effort to encourage young people to consider fields of science when making career plans.
“I’ve been looking at a lot of different things, including science,” Childers said. “This event has broadened some of the subjects I will consider because many of them appeal to me. And it’s really fun.”
DOE conducted the 10th version of the event on October 1-3 and welcomed nearly 1,500 students from a record 32 southern Ohio high schools. Interactive demonstrations in 15-minute intervals exposed the students to an array of subjects, and opportunities to interact with representatives from regional universities and employers.
One of the employers was General Electric Aviation, which operates its jet engine test program in nearby Peebles, Ohio. Amy Swango, who organized GE’s display, said interacting with students not only informs them of opportunities but helps the company address workforce development needs.
“We can draw engineers from anywhere, but not everyone wants to stay here long term, so we think it is important to make young people here aware of what we do and what we offer,” Swango said. “It’s fascinating that many airplanes that fly over us every day have engines that were tested at our plant. That puts a seed in their minds that there are opportunities right here.”
That approach is exactly what motivates teachers like Britnee Inman, chemistry and biology teacher at nearby Manchester High School. Inman said it is important for young people to recognize the opportunities and STEM-related careers within their grasp.
“This is good for our students because we are in a low socioeconomic school district. It is advantageous for our students just to see the opportunities that are available, some of the jobs here at the plant site and the businesses that are in the area,” said Inman. “The students like to see all the information from the colleges. We’ve had several recent graduates go into science fields because they came to this event.”
That marrying of interests and needs was the driver when the event was conceived in 2010, said DOE Project Coordinator Greg Simonton. According to the Pew Research Center, the United States trails many advanced industrial nations in science and mathematics. “The nation has a need for more kids to get involved in the sciences. Check. Our young people need opportunities. Check. Our regional businesses need to foster an infrastructure of local employees for workforce continuity. Check,” Simonton said. “Science Alliance is not just an everyday science fair. This event changes lives, changes the way we think about STEM education and addresses bigger challenges that we all face.”
High schools attending the event were Adams County Christian, Adena, Chillicothe, Christian Life Academy, Eastern Pike, Green, Huntington Ross, Lucasville Valley, Manchester, Minford, Miracle City Academy, New Boston, North Adams, Northwest, Oak Hill, Paint Valley, Peebles, Pickaway-Ross Career & Technology Center, Pike Christian Academy, Pike County Career Technical Center, Portsmouth, Portsmouth Notre Dame, Portsmouth STEM Academy, Portsmouth West, Scioto County Career Technical Center, Sciotoville East, South Webster, Southeastern, Waverly, Wellston, Western Pike and Wheelersburg.
The regional universities involved were Hocking College, Marietta College, Morehead State, Ohio University, Ohio University-Chillicothe, Ohio Christian, Ohio State, Rio Grande, Shawnee State and Southern State Community College. Participating regional businesses besides GE Aviation were Kenworth Trucking, Rural King, General Mills and the Ohio State Highway Patrol. Other organizations that contributed to the event included the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, Adena Health System, Fluor-BWXT, RSI EnTech, Portsmouth Mission Alliance, Mid-America Conversion Services, Veolia, and the Portsmouth Site Specific Advisory Board.
Simonton said watching young people see doors open for themselves is a victory for everyone. Nick Mowery, a 16-year-old junior at Valley High School in Lucasville, said the event showed him areas of studies with which he was not familiar.
“It was great to talk to the universities and see all their various majors. I really liked the robotics demonstrations shown by Shawnee State University,” he said. “Science Alliance is a really cool thing where students can get information that can help them in their lives.”
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