This summer may mark a turning point in the lives of 60 middle schoolers who are taking part in Pellissippi State Community College’s Manufacturing and Coding Academy.
The rising sixth graders from Anderson, Blount, Grainger, Hamblen, Jefferson, Knox, Sevier and Union counties are learning about the world of advanced manufacturing, robotics and cyber security.
The four-week program provided the young participants with ideas about careers that are in high demand and provide good wages. The academy was held at Pellissippi State’s Strawberry Plains Campus and was sponsored by Consolidated Nuclear Security, LLC through a grant from the CNS Y-12 Community Investment Fund.
Bill Tindal, Y-12 site manager, was on hand recently to watch the students in action and said he could not be more pleased with the program and what it offers these children.
“You could see the excitement in their eyes as they worked the computer or a robot they’d programmed,” Tindal said. “The academy provided these children with a learning experience they won’t soon forget, and I’m happy that CNS and Y-12 could be part of that.”
Tindal also gave the sixth graders some advice. “Work hard and learn as much as you can,” he said. “And if it starts to get difficult, embrace it, because that’s where you learn the most.”
Pellissippi State President Anthony Wise said the academy has exceeded everyone’s expectations. “We are grateful for everyone’s support in this endeavor,” he said. “Together, we are helping young students to set goals for college attainment.”
The partners included the East Tennessee Foundation, the Boys and Girls Club of the Tennessee Valley, the Emerald Youth Foundation, the Great Schools Partnership and Project Grad
Air Force Brig. Gen. Michael Lutton formally took position as the National Nuclear Security Administration’s new Principal Deputy Administrator for Military Applications July 5.
Before he assumed his new post, he toured Pantex and Y‑12 on back-to-back days to familiarize himself with work being performed at both sites.
Lutton is no stranger to the nuclear deterrent mission. He previously served as the commander of the 91st Missile Wing at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota, one of the Air Force’s three intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) wings that maintain a portion of the nation’s Minuteman III ICBMs and launch control centers.
Before his assignment at Minot, Lutton served as the deputy director of Mission Assessment and Analysis at U.S. Strategic Command from 2012 to 2014.
Lutton replaced Brig. Gen. Stephen L. Davis who accompanied him on the tours.
Y-12 is talking robotics with college students a state away.
Through video teleconferencing, Y‑12 is using its people and technological capabilities to reach out and (almost) touch aspiring roboticists at Northern Kentucky University, located just south of Cincinnati.
Because of his career-long experience as an inventor, Lee Bzorgi of Mission Engineering conducted a WebEx™ meeting with a business informatics class that’s fashioning an arm to enhance a robot that’ll assist the Newport, Kentucky, police SWAT team. This topic is right down Bzorgi’s alley. He’s been problem solving and inventing security gadgets at Y‑12 since 2001. Robots were his first love, though, building his first at age 10 and then publishing the design soon after.
“During my first four years out of college, I worked in robotics at Bechtel, and over the following 26 years, I’ve consistently applied that background knowledge to project after project,” said Bzorgi, whose initial professional trial was to construct a robot for radioactive contamination cleanup following the 1979 Three Mile Island meltdown. “It was my first engineering job. All the Bechtel executives were 50+, so I grew a moustache to look older!” That job set the course for Bzorgi’s career.
NKU instructor Steve Hinkel is a tinkerer with a computer science and business background, so robotics is a natural fit for his varied interests. “Business informatics focuses on ways to integrate technology into business operations, and Lee was absolutely brilliant with my students, offering a presentation, explaining some of his inventions and showing real-world examples of technologies being applied,” Hinkel said. “He also sparked an excellent post-presentation discussion; the students were extremely engaged. Lee is truly remarkable, and we were fortunate to have him as a guest speaker—the best we’ve ever had.”
“This kind of collaboration shows Consolidated Nuclear Security’s depth and breadth of capability and willing service to the nation—from the college campus to our industry partners,” Tom Berg of Program Integration said. “Our partnerships often are the pipeline for students who find a specific area of interest, like robotics, and then join the workforce down the road.”
Because Y‑12 is usually all about keeping information inside the fence and security (physical to cyber) is exceptionally tight, setting up a video teleconference didn’t happen in a snap. Program Integration’s Kia Moua worked internally with Information Solutions & Services to pave the way for this and future collaborations with external partners. “Having the capability to handle live streaming outside the Y‑12 firewall, using commercial software such as Skype™ or WebEx, to communicate with external industry partners provides significant cost savings. Imagine not having to travel and being able to sit in your office while receiving live feedback from your audience,” said Moua.
“From investments in high-end Cisco™ Telepresence to desktop conferencing with Microsoft® Lync™ between Pantex and Y-12 to slowly opening secure collaboration capabilities to external partners, Consolidated Nuclear Security continues to find ways to collaborate that are appropriate for our national security environment and that enable significant efficiencies in operations with our partners,” said Travis Howerton, senior director for Enterprise Architecture and Strategy.
Using today’s technology, CNS continues to build partnerships, share its unique expertise, save money and work more efficiently.
To learn more about Bzorgi’s inventions, visit the National Security Technology Center website.
Tours of Y-12 brought almost 400 people to the site as part of Oak Ridge’s 14th annual Secret City Festival. The visitors from 18 states included a group of women dressed as Rosie the Riveter, complete with lunch pails, from the historic Willow Run Bomber Plant in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Like Y-12, Willow Run was vital to the U.S. war effort in World War II.
The Rosies toured Y‑12 and learned about its current crucial missions, its role in the Manhattan Project and on‑going historical preservation efforts through discussions with Y‑12 historian Ray Smith and members of the Oak Ridge Heritage and Preservation Association. The group, familiar with Denise Kiernan’s The Girls of Atomic City, also had a chance to meet some of Y‑12’s version of the Rosies — the “Calutron Girls” — during the Secret City Festival.
While newcomers toured Y‑12, some who call the site home during the workweek participated with the Oak Ridge Amateur Radio Club at its demonstration of World War II‑era military radio communications, including the SCR‑284 — the same type as used in Oak Ridge during the war. Approximately 200 people visited the exhibit, which, along with live, on‑the‑air radio operations, featured replays of historic broadcasts, such as news programs from World War II, including the announcement of the existence of Oak Ridge and the Manhattan Project.
The group also hosted communications as part of the National Parks on the Air Program, celebrating the Centennial of the National Park Service and the newly established Manhattan Project National Historical Park. More than 270 contacts were made as part of NPOTA, including stations on five continents.
Embrace the nerd. CNS’s Anita Hazelwood did, and she’s never looked back. Hazelwood, a chemical engineer at Y-12, described coming to work in Oak Ridge in 2010 as part of the New Engineer Rotational Development program or NERD. Today the program is known as Career ONE.
“The program was a great opportunity for me to learn and gain work experience,” she said with a laugh. “I’m pretty sure I was the first member of NERD.”
Hazelwood recounted her story to area science, technology, engineering and mathematics teachers who were visiting Y-12 for an in-service day. The group of about 20 teachers and administrators were welcomed to Y-12 by Deputy Site Manager Gene Sievers, who explained the mission of Y-12, the site’s importance to national security and how CNS needs talented engineers and other STEM graduates today and in the future. “The workplace is changing, and workers’ skillsets must keep pace with employers’ needs,” said Sievers.
Sievers also participated in a panel discussion along with Hazelwood, Production manager Abe Mathews, Specialty Engineering functional manager Michael Ellis and Uranium Processing Facility Deputy Project Director Valerie McCain.
Best advice for students? “Accountability,” said McCain. “Teach your students to be accountable for their actions.” Mathews agreed and added, “It’s okay to say, ‘I don’t know.’”
Ellis urged the teachers to help students “get work experience,” because it will pay off down the road.
Haley Holt, STEM Facilitator for Knox County Schools coordinated the event with CNS’s Kristin Waldschlager. Holt says STEM is about more than just teaching math and science. “We want teachers to see connections with their instruction and the job opportunities available to their students,” she said.
Holly Cross, Director of Career Technical Education for Oak Ridge Schools also attended the in-service and agreed with Holt. “We want teachers to be able to help kids see options and prepare for employment in the future,” Cross said.
Reaching out to today’s STEM-embedded professionals at Y-12 was a way for the teachers to better understand those options.