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STEM sensations in the sunshine state

STEM sensations in the sunshine state

August 17, 2017

Employees in our Florida offices are applying the magic formula to successful STEM events:

Employee volunteers + local students + client passion + memberships with local nonprofits

Our Gainesville and Jacksonville offices have teamed up with our water clients to offer fun, educational and STEM-sational events for middle school students.

“The CH2M Foundation promotes strategic community investment in STEM education,” said Ellen Sandberg, the foundation’s executive director and VP of community investment, “and our colleagues in Florida are an excellent example of putting that purpose into action.”

“Our students could not stop talking about the trip. The visit to the wastewater treatment plant inspired our students to consider becoming part of a team that works to keep our planet clean.”--Tammie Vassou, principal, Queen of Peace Academy

“Our students could not stop talking about the trip. The visit to the wastewater treatment plant inspired our students to consider becoming part of a team that works to keep our planet clean.”–Tammie Vassou, principal, Queen of Peace Academy

 

Gainesville Regional Utilities’ EngiNEAR You program introduces students to STEM skills and principles needed to pursue engineering careers. In October 2016, 50 middle school students and teachers visited CH2M’s Gainesville office and Gainesville Regional Utilities (GRU) to learn about “clean” water – where it came from and how it was brought into their homes. For the follow-up event in May 2017, 60 students and teachers learned about “dirty” water – where it goes when it leaves their homes and how it is treated and reused.

“I am excited about this partnership. Hats off to CH2M for coordinating two STEM events in one school year! Middle schoolers are beginning to discover their skills, talents, and abilities.” --Yvette Carter, community relations director, GRU

“I am excited about this partnership. Hats off to CH2M for coordinating two STEM events in one school year! Middle schoolers are beginning to discover their skills, talents, and abilities.” –Yvette Carter, community relations director, GRU

In our Gainesville office, students heard from CH2M engineers, architects and technicians about how we designed and constructed the Kanapaha Water Reclamation Facility for GRU. The students also visited a wetland to learn about the plants and fish that thrive in a wetland environment. They then conducted fieldwork and recorded their findings. Next, they moved onto a simulated laboratory to learn about field and laboratory chemistry. They measured the depth of a monitoring well, found the pH for several liquids and recorded their findings.

After leaving our office, the students toured the water reclamation facility and participated in a hands-on fats, oils and grease demo; viewed an interactive benchtop plant model; tried out the high-definition cameras and microscopes and viewed a demo about what not to flush. The highly successful day garnered rave reviews from our client, students and teachers alike.

Meanwhile, in Jacksonville, we teamed up with the City of Jacksonville and JEA (northeast Florida’s community-owned utility) to offer another great STEM day. Approximately 30 middle school students, teachers and administrators visited our office and JEA’s Main Street Water Treatment Plant to learn about Jacksonville’s drinking water and how it is treated and delivered to the city’s homes and businesses. Raynetta Marshall, JEA’s director of water/wastewater project engineering & construction, told the students how important engineers and scientists were to the utility and the community. “We want to help create excitement for our community’s middle school students and show them how math and science play a key role in their daily lives,” said Raynetta. She offered a pop quiz during the facility tour and the winning student won a prize.

“As engineers, we serve the people in our communities. Being able to engage the youth of our community and get them interested about a future career as an engineer is very fulfilling.” --Hai Vu, JEA manager–water plants engineering & construction

“As engineers, we serve the people in our communities. Being able to engage the youth of our community and get them interested about a future career as an engineer is very fulfilling.” –Hai Vu, JEA manager–water plants engineering & construction

Our engineers, architects, scientists and technicians then described their roles in designing and constructing water treatment plants. Groundwater engineers demonstrated using a cross-sectional well model, showing where the water comes from and how it gets pumped out of the ground and into their homes. Students took a virtual tour of a water treatment plant using virtual reality goggles before touring the JEA plant. They also saw how our engineers use computer programs to simulate different scenarios to determine the best design options to meet our clients’ requirements.

When they moved from virtual reality to the real tour, students saw a newly constructed production well, sodium hypochlorite system, ozone system and pump room, where they compared the original steam-driven Allis-Chalmers pump built in the 1890s to the current high-service pumps. They also conducted hands-on laboratory analysis and learned about “Big Jim,” a steam whistle from 1890, which announced the arrival of electricity in 1895, warned residents of the Great Fire of 1901, ushered in each New Year and signaled important events, such as the end of the two world wars.

“Partnering with CH2M and JEA to offer STEM education programs to students is a wonderful opportunity for us to increase their interest in STEM, while also developing our future business leaders and workforce.” --Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry

“Partnering with CH2M and JEA to offer STEM education programs to students is a wonderful opportunity for us to increase their interest in STEM, while also developing our future business leaders and workforce.” –Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry

What’s the secret for a successful STEM event?

Both events conveyed CH2M’s values and culture, in addition to a sense of fun! The events began with safety moments, followed by introductions and welcomes from Pilar Doran (our manager in north-central Florida) and client representatives. The students left with fun CH2M swag—in Gainesville they got a CH2M bag and bling, and the teachers received resource materials and red maple seedlings to plant with the students. In Jacksonville, the students received a CH2M bag to carry their own virtual reality goggles, with instructions and website links included, and other CH2M swag.

“Working as a team with clients, promoting our common interests in STEM education and a true caring for our community, has been a privilege for CH2M and for me personally,” said Pilar. “Our partnerships are key in ensuring that students are exposed to meaningful STEM programs.”

“A STEM education helps create critical thinkers and encourages the next generation of innovators. By participating in this program, we hope to showcase the importance of STEM to the next generation, who will help drive our economy forward.” --Paul McElroy, CEO, JEA

“A STEM education helps create critical thinkers and encourages the next generation of innovators. By participating in this program, we hope to showcase the importance of STEM to the next generation, who will help drive our economy forward.” –Paul McElroy, CEO, JEA

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August 2017

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