A fifth-grade student listens as Pam Baird of Fluor-BWXT Portsmouth explains a science experiment at Western Elementary School.
A fifth-grade student listens as Pam Baird of Fluor-BWXT Portsmouth explains a science experiment at Western Elementary School.

PIKE COUNTY, Ohio EM’s Portsmouth Site has launched a new education program aimed at getting local students to start thinking about careers in science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM).

“With the technology and health and safety guidelines available to us, we realized early on during the pandemic that we should and would continue our educational outreach, which is so important to the local youth, economy, and our national interests,” said Jeff Bettinger, Portsmouth site lead for EM’s Portsmouth/Paducah Project Office. “In that spirit, we have worked with our contractors to continue our regional Science Bowl, student Annual Site Environmental Report summary, and other programs, and even added a new program: STEAM Ahead.”

STEAM Ahead is an interactive, hands-on experience that exposes students to a world of possibilities in science. The pilot program is underway at the elementary and junior high schools in Pike County’s Western Local School District.

Pam Baird of Fluor-BWXT Portsmouth explains a science experiment to fifth-grade students at Western Elementary School.
Pam Baird of Fluor-BWXT Portsmouth explains a science experiment to fifth-grade students at Western Elementary School.

Students in the program visit with employees of Fluor-BWXT Portsmouth (FBP), EM’s deactivation and decommissioning contractor, which spearheads the program. The employees talk about their careers and present various scientific demonstrations to highlight how they use science every day.

“It’s so important for us to use programs like STEAM Ahead to help emphasize science to our students,” said Bethany Whitt, principal for grades four through six at Western Elementary School in Latham, Ohio. “Exposure to science is critical to their education. These creative experiments and the chance to talk to the experts really gets them excited about learning.”

Western Superintendent Brock Brewster added, “This can help them see how they can use science to find new opportunities and explore a wide variety of fields, some even in our own community.”

While Western is the first school district in the program, the STEAM Ahead program will soon be expanding to other schools in Pike, Scioto, Ross, and Jackson counties, which surround EM’s former Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant site.

“We are excited to help southern Ohio students explore the potential of a STEAM career,” said JD Dowell, site project director for FBP. “By going into the classroom and sharing our experiences in science, we hope we can encourage students to start thinking about their futures and how science provides a wide variety of opportunities.”