PIKETON, Ohio ̶ More than 1,400 students and educators from 25 southern Ohio high schools participated in the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) 8th Science Alliance event October 4-6, 2016, at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Piketon, Ohio.
The interactive science fair introduces STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects to high school students who are making decisions about their futures. The record number of students saw 13 demonstrations, ranging from plant history to the nuclear fuel cycle, environmental stewardship, business development, and future farming techniques, among others.
“We would like to thank the school administrators, teachers and students who played a role in Science Alliance. This is one of the largest outreach efforts we have and DOE recognizes it as an event that can open doors for young people,” said Greg Simonton, who oversees the event for DOE. “The feedback we received was tremendous and we’re glad to see that the schools see value in it.”
Representatives from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, the Portsmouth Site Specific Advisory Board (SSAB), regional universities, and DOE prime contractors (Fluor-BWXT Portsmouth LLC, Restoration Services, Inc., and Portsmouth Mission Alliance) joined DOE in providing demonstration stations, volunteers and other logistics for the event.
Gracie Evans, a 17-year-old senior from Portsmouth West High School, said the event touched on a number of subjects that she enjoyed.
“I really liked learning about uranium enrichment and I liked Marc Hill’s presentation (on site history),” she said. “I really liked learning about all the careers that are possible here. That’s something I didn’t know.”
Luke Nichols, a 16-year-old junior from Piketon, also saw similar value.
“I learned about a lot of things that I didn’t know, especially the career options,” he said. “I really didn’t know a lot about the plant before I came out here. It’s been a really interesting experience and I feel like I know a lot more now.”
Simonton said the response from schools has been rewarding.
“Each year the event grows in numbers and each year we get teachers expressing how much the students enjoy coming,” Simonton said. “When we see those students getting excited during the event with our interactive activities and then hearing from teachers that we are connecting to them, it lets us know we are having an impact.”
Science Alliance is part of the Portsmouth site’s broader educational outreach program that includes, among other activities, the South Central Ohio Regional Science Bowl, internships, scholarships, and the Ohio University student ASER project where high school students summarize the site’s Annual Site Environmental Report.