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Portsmouth Site Lead Jeff Bettinger welcomes students to the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant site for the 10th Science Alliance event.
Portsmouth Site Lead Jeff Bettinger welcomes students to the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant site for the 10th Science Alliance event.

PIKE COUNTY, OhioEM is on the lookout for students like high school junior Brooke Childers, who recently attended the Science Alliance at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant site.

EM’s Science Alliance is an interactive event that showcases a range of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) 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,” said Childers, who attends Waverly High School in Waverly, Ohio. “This event has broadened some of the subjects I will consider because many of them appeal to me. And it’s really fun.”

EM conducted the 10th version of the event earlier this month and welcomed nearly 1,500 students from 32 southern Ohio high schools. Interactive demonstrations in 15-minute intervals provide the students an array of subjects, and an opportunity to interact with representatives from regional universities and employers.

Jud Lilly of EM’s Portsmouth/Paducah Project Office provides an orientation on chemistry and the nuclear fuel cycle at the Science Alliance event.
Jud Lilly of EM’s Portsmouth/Paducah Project Office provides an orientation on chemistry and the nuclear fuel cycle at the Science Alliance event.
Marc Hill with EM contractor Fluor-BWXT provides a demonstration on historic preservation at the Science Alliance event.
Marc Hill with EM contractor Fluor-BWXT provides a demonstration on historic preservation at the Science Alliance event.

One of the employers is General Electric Aviation, which has its jet engine test operation in nearby Peebles, Ohio. Amy Swango, who organized the company’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, a chemistry and biology teacher at nearby Manchester High School. Inman said it is important for young people to recognize the opportunities and STEM 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,” Inman said. “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.”

Dan Minter with EM contractor Portsmouth Mission Alliance, right, works with students during a glovebox demonstration at EM’s Science Alliance event.
Dan Minter with EM contractor Portsmouth Mission Alliance, right, works with students during a glovebox demonstration at EM’s Science Alliance event.

That marriage of interests and needs was the driver when the event was originally conceived in 2010, said EM Project Coordinator Greg Simonton of the Portsmouth/Paducah Project Office.

“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.”

Nick Mowery, a 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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