First Annual STEM Event at Flaming Gorge Dam

Written by: Amee Andreason

Group photo at the 2018 Flaming Gorge STEM event
Group photo at the 2018 Flaming Gorge STEM event
On May 24, Reclamation hosted the first science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) event with participating agencies Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service at Flaming Gorge Dam in Dutch John, Utah. The primary goal was to recruit and mentor youth by encouraging them to pursue education and career paths in natural resources. Seventh and eighth grade students from Manila High School participated in the event.

The students and teachers split up into two different groups, each group took a tour of Flaming Gorge Dam led by Reclamation’s John Morton and Roxann Reid. This enhanced their understanding of dam construction and the operation of powerplants while learning about careers in engineering and water management. In the powerplant, Chris Curtis had the students explore the electromagnetic spectrum and the relationship between wavelength, frequency and energy. He conducted an interactive activity having the students make magnets out of copper wire wrapped around a nail that were then tested on different magnetic objects.

The Bureau of Land Management’s archeologists David Christensen showed the students historical artifacts of the ancient tribes in the local area. The students also experienced ancient technology first hand, using a spear-throwing device called an atlatl to hit 3-D targets. The atlatl, or spear-thrower, was a hunting device that allowed prehistoric peoples all over the world to throw a spear with greater force and distance.

The Bureau of Land Management’s ecologist Jerrad Goodell taught the students about the need to manage fish species in the Green River by balancing endangered fish recovery with sport fishing opportunities. Additionally, the students learned about the food web by examining macro-invertebrates collected on site as well as how to use invertebrates as indicators of water quality and stream health.

The U.S. Forest Service’s Mac Zimmerman taught the students about the importance of fire safety and what forest fires do to the earth over time. It’s fascinating to learn that there are benefits to the forest from fires.

Reclamation’s Stacey Smith and Andrew Kirby led the dam construction and engineering activity. Stacey and Andrew taught the students about Reclamation’s mission and the different types of dams, before breaking the students into small groups to conduct a dam-building exercise where students used a variety of soils, rocks and reinforcing structures to try to build a scale-model earthen dam. The project is very interactive and it’s fascinating to watch the future engineers build unique structures by using their imaginations and to create scale-model dams from various resources.

The event was a success. The activities showed the real-life implications of STEM benefits the student’s, society, and the world. The agencies are looking forward to making this an annual event, and the school would like the event to be open to all students from Manilla High School next year. Reclamation looks forward to this event and to participating in other activities that stimulate student interest in STEM.

Special thanks to Lifetime Products for donating draw-string bags and staff at Flaming Gorge Dam for setting up stations and making sure cold water and sunscreen was available.

Check out more photos here:

Published on June 11, 2018