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Science, Technology Teachers Train at STP

July 29, 2014

    News from the South Texas Project

    High school teachers and counselors are instrumental in helping students maneuver their futures. Many students don't know - or have even thought about - what they will do when they leave high school.

    But teachers understand how important it is for the students to make good decisions about their future - and they strive to be informed about the choices available so they can help students make informed decisions.

    About 400 to 500 workers will leave the South Texas Project over the next five years - many of whom are retiring after more than 20 years with the company. This information - and the need for a technically trained workforce to replace those who are leaving - was an exciting message to the four high school math and science teachers visiting the site.

    STP hosts Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) teachers each summer as part of its Workforce Development plan, coordinated by Clarence Fenner, Workforce Development. The effort familiarizes the teachers with the nuclear industry and STP's career opportunities. The teachers, in turn, pass on to their students their knowledge of the nuclear energy industry and the type of career opportunities that are available.

    "It has really opened our eyes," said Kelle Kipping, a high school counselor at Foster High School in Richmond. "I've learned so much -- I didn't know much about nuclear."

    The group was more familiar with the chemical industry, said Kelly Bertsch, a math and technology teacher at Sweeny High School.

    "Last summer we went to Phillips 66. I was more familiar with the chemical industry, because of its proximity to Sweeny," Bertsch said. "I wanted to learn about nuclear so I could pass on the information to my students - give them more choices."

    At STP, the STEM teachers participate in a rigorous two-week program that this year included INPO nuclear professional training, visits with International Atomic Energy Agency representatives and a Kenyan delegation, dosimetry training - dressing out included - metrology lab, security and plant protection, a plant tour and media training that included interviewing tips.

    They also toured Brazosport College, Wharton County Junior College and the Joint Information Center and will observe the Red Team tabletop drill.

    The group said they were surprised at how much electricity was produced at STP - enough to light 1 million Texas homes - and that 20 percent of the electricity produced in Texas comes from nuclear power.

    They also were surprised to see how incredibly safe and clean the plant is.

    "I knew it had to be safe, but the level of safety is amazing," Kipping said. "It's layers on layers of safety."

    The group also learned about a new science they were not aware of.

    "Metrology - the study of measurement - was new to me," said Savannah Staff, a biology, anatomy and physiology teacher at Tidehaven High School. "I learned that there are not very many people who enter the metrology field. The STP metrology employees were very smart - crazy smart."

    "It was exciting to see that there really is a job for any interest," said Paula Brooks, an algebra teacher at Sweeny High School. "There's a little bit of everything - it's a community."