Some 30 Y-12 engineers visited schools across East Tennessee for Engineering Week, a yearly effort to celebrate how engineers make a difference, increase public dialogue about the need for engineers, and bring engineering to life for kids, educators, and parents.
Students learned about the basics of engineering, the variety of engineering specialties, and how to become an engineer. Volunteers shared what inspired them to pursue the profession and challenged students with a design competition. Many of this year’s volunteers were visiting schools that they attended; it was an opportunity to give back and inspire the next generation of students.
“Y-12 engineers have been faithfully serving area schools through Engineers Week for many years. It’s encouraging that in my seven years of involvement, I’ve seen a noticeable increase in the number of students who say that they know what engineers do, and that they would like to become an engineer, which is what this effort is all about,” volunteer Anita Hazlewood said.
Engineers visited 14 area schools, reaching more than 2,800 students.
More than 500 middle- and high-school-aged girls recently attended Y-12’s Introduce a Girl to Engineering event.
The attendees could interact with and ask questions of engineers, who were a large part of the more than 90 volunteers at the event. Keynote speakers included NNSA Production Office Deputy Manager Teresa Robbins and Y-12 Deputy Site Manager Amy Wilson. The students also could participate in a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) challenge and visit 23 booths that highlighted engineering careers.
One parent who attended with his daughter said, “My daughter and I were impressed with the organization and the information that was given. It has given her a great insight to what engineering field she wants to pursue. Overall, it was time well spent.”
“This event opens up a potential for our family to have a fifth-generation employee at Y-12,” said an employee. “I’m filled with pride that our company provides something like this for workforce development.”
Watch this video to see the students’ perspective.
The Pilot Plant, Building 9731, was the first building completed at Y-12 during the World War II Manhattan Project. The building housed magnets for the Alpha and Beta Calutrons used to produce enriched uranium for the first atomic weapon, which helped end World War II.
The facility was a scaled-up version of laboratory-sized test Calutrons, the technology developed to derive the highly enriched uranium for the atomic weapon Little Boy. It was used to determine what improvements would be applied to the production Calutrons simultaneously being built at Y-12. Ultimately, Y-12 had 1,152 alpha and beta Calutrons producing the weapon fuel during the World War II Manhattan Project.
The Alpha Calutron magnets are still standing there today—the only ones in the world. After being a key component to the Manhattan Project’s success, the same equipment was used to find peaceful uses for it.
Dr. Chris Keim experimented in 9731 with separating materials other than uranium, which ultimately helped lead to the creation of medical isotopes—a big part of medical technology today.
The Calutron magnets in Bldg. 9731 have been designated as Manhattan Project Signature Artifacts by the Department of Energy’s Federal Preservation Officer in the DOE Office of History and Heritage Resources. The building holds Historical Landmark status on the National Register of Historic Places.
NASA recently selected Robertsville Middle School’s cube satellite design as one of 11 small research satellites to fly aboard a future space mission. The Robertsville satellite mission was born out of the 2016 Gatlinburg fire and will be designed to monitor forest regrowth, with a base station at the school to communicate with the satellite.
Through the school’s NASA Project-Based Learning course, students worked with NASA engineers, teachers, and community mentors to develop a conceptual design and to 3-D print a mock-up cube satellite frame. One of those mentors is Y-12’s Eric Sampsel, whose daughter Elana is an eighth grader at the Oak Ridge school.
Sampsel helped draft the proposal and worked with the students to take a systems engineering approach to the project. “We talked about how projects are structured, how important communication is between teams, and how to document and track the requirements that they design to,” said Sampsel, a Y-12 program manager.
“It was fun watching the kids interact with engineers from NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and have technical conversations with the experts who design satellites for a living,” he said.
For the next phase of the project, students will finalize, build, and test a working model of their design. CNS contributed financial support for the project.
The Uranium Processing Facility project was the top fundraiser in Tennessee for the Polar Plunge for the second year in a row, raising a whopping $22,458 for Special Olympics Tennessee and giving the local organization a much-needed boost.
“It makes a huge difference to us,” said Gina Legg, volunteer co-director of Special Olympics of Greater Knoxville for more than 12 years. “Up until last year, we struggled to stay above water. Last year we were able to get through the entire year and not hold our breath from month to month.”
UPF was the top fundraiser in the state last year for the Polar Plunge, raising $14,230. The Project exceeded that total by more than $8,000 this year.
“We appreciate your help so much,” Legg said. “It’s been such a blessing to not worry about having enough funding.”
About half of the donations raised from the Polar Plunge supports the local organization, Legg said, and the other half supports statewide activities. Locally, the funds pay for things like sports venues, equipment, transportation, lodging, and medals for the athletes.
The local chapter serves more than 1,500 athletes, providing them with year-round training and competition in 18 different sports. Special Olympics is funded solely by donations, and the organization’s bylaws prohibit charging athletes for any portion of their Special Olympics experience.
In addition to being the top overall fundraiser, UPF had the top four individual fundraisers in the state: Cindy Ford, Ian Finnerty, Michael Martinez and Mitch Rose. Other UPF fundraisers were Matt Nuckols, Jon Engle, Dick Miller and Glenn Clemons.
“We have a lot of fun with the Polar Plunge,” said Jamie Lesko, the president of NextGen, which sponsored the fundraiser at UPF, “but going to the event and meeting the athletes and the people involved with the organization gives you a better appreciation for the activities our donations support.”