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Record numbers attend DOE Science Alliance Event

PIKETON, Ohio – The U.S. Department of Energy’s Ninth Annual Science Alliance event again drew a record number of participants from southern Ohio schools to the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant site October 2-4.

Nearly 1,900 high-school juniors came to the Portsmouth Site over three days from 32 southern Ohio schools for interactive demonstrations on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and to learn about  associated careers and educational pathways.

“The Science Alliance event continues to grow because it is not a typical science fair,” said Greg Simonton, who oversees the project for DOE’s Portsmouth/Paducah Project Office.  “Students and educators get unique and valuable information, and this event also allows DOE to showcase the kinds of STEM-related careers we have available, which is a national priority.”

About 75 volunteers assist in the execution of the event, which provides 10 demonstrations that last about 15 minutes each on a range of STEM subjects, including the science of sound, the nuclear fuel cycle, plant history, robotics, engineering and more.  Regional universities also participate and interact with students to let them know how their curricula align with their STEM-related interests.

Students at DOE’s Science Alliance event had the opportunity to meet with representatives from regional universities.

Sarah Crabtree, a 16-year-old junior at Waverly High School, said the event shows students potential careers in science that were unknown to them.

“I think Science Alliance is a good opportunity to see what’s here (at the Portsmouth site) and is a fun way to get involved in sciences,” said Crabtree, who said she is still evaluating her career and educational options.  “I’ll certainly keep a lot of this in mind.”

Garrett Humphrey, another 16-year-old, is a junior at the Scioto County Career Technical Center in Lucasville, Ohio.  He said the event provided information on industrial jobs available at the site with which he was not familiar.

“This is pretty fun, and it’s cool to learn about all this stuff out here I didn’t know that much about,” Humphrey said.  “I liked learning that they have different types of jobs here, like for welders.”

Barb Bazler teaches biology, anatomy and physiology at Portsmouth West High School.  She said the event is not only popular with students, but provides them a historical perspective important to their understanding of the Portsmouth site’s integral role in the Cold War.

“The kids love it because it is very hands-on.  It’s very educational and it’s good for the students to see how important this area was when it came to dealing with world issues,” Bazler said.  “This event allows students to see what they have learned in the classroom and see how it is applied in a real-world setting.  It reinforces what they have been taught.”

Participating schools included Adams County Christian, Adena, Chillicothe, Christian Life Academy, Eastern Pike, Green, Huntington Ross, Jackson, Lucasville Valley, Manchester, Minford, North Adams, Northwest, Notre Dame, Oak Hill, Ohio Valley Career and Technical Center, Paint Valley, Peebles, Pickaway-Ross Career Technology Center, Pike Christian Academy, Pike County Career Technology Center, Piketon, Portsmouth, Portsmouth West, Scioto County Career Technical Center, Sciotoville East, Southeastern, South Webster, Waverly, West Union, Western Pike and Wheelersburg.

Participating colleges and universities included Central State University, Hocking College, Ohio University, Ohio Christian University, Ohio State University, Ohio Valley University, Rio Grande, Shawnee State University and Southern State Community College.

The Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant was constructed from 1952-56.  Uranium enrichment operations occurred from 1954-2001 for national security, defense purposes and the commercial nuclear fuel industry.  The site is now in its eighth year of a decontamination and decommissioning project to prepare portions of the site for economic development and other uses.

Fluor-BWXT’s Marc Hill delivers a demonstration of site history as part of the annual DOE Science Alliance, which occurred October 2-4 at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant site.

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