Voinovich School STEM Project with Piketon High School Now Available

Students at Piketon High School have completed the sixth Annual Site Environmental Report (ASER) Student Summary document that encapsulates and summarizes data on the U.S. Department of Energy’s cleanup efforts at the former Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant located near Piketon, Ohio.

(Greg Simonton-DOE Federal Coordinator provides site overview to Piketon High School ASER Students prior to site tour on December 6, 2016.” (photo credit: Daniel Kloepfer/Voinovich School)

Each year, Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs partners with U.S. Department of Energy Office of Environmental Management (DOE EM) PORTS staff, site contractors, and higher education institutions in the region to deliver a valuable STEM education experience to a high school class in Pike County. The student summary reports are part of the Voinovich School’s PORTSfuture project, funded by a grant from the US DOE EM Portsmouth/Paducah Project Office. PORTSfuture collaborates with site stakeholders and leverages Ohio University resources and expertise in a variety of activities to support site remediation efforts.  As cleanup progresses, the local community reuse organization, the Southern Ohio Diversification Initiative (SODI), will focus on development of DOE land and facilities for economic diversification and to promote regional economic development.

The grant provides STEM-focused educational experiences to high school students each year in Pike County. Efforts this year were led by Daniel Kloepfer, Research Associate, at the Voinovich School and Katrina Queen, Chemistry teacher at Piketon High School.

“DOE officials, school personnel, students who participate, and others in the Pike County community highly regard this project. The ASER Student Summary project provides a valuable learning experience that encourages students to explore careers in STEM fields including environmental engineering,” Stephanie Howe, Voinovich School program director for the grant, said. “It also demonstrates DOE’s commitment to providing community outreach in STEM education.”

The official DOE ASER informs and educates the public about the site cleanup activities by describing the effectiveness of environmental monitoring and surveillance of the area, and noting if the site meets environmental standards and requirements. During the development of the summary of the full ASER report, students learned about the process and past successes through a series of seminars by subject matter experts. The seminars also included the history of the site, as well as cleanup activities and areas of importance related to the remediation efforts. Subject matter experts provided students with information they needed to develop the summary report, and also introduced them to careers in the environmental field.

Students learned about the site and the issues through assigned readings, discussions with members of the Site Specific Advisory Board, and guided tours. This year, the site tour, led by Greg Simonton, DOE Federal Coordinator, focused on introducing the Piketon High School students to the PORTS facility and its historic and current activities.  Additionally, the students visited a state park where the Voinovich School water quality team led them in a hands-on water quality testing demonstration to provide them an applied STEM learning experience.

The project concluded with an end of the year celebration at the high school, where students were honored with acknowledgements from Joel Bradburne, DOE PORTS Site Lead; Greg Simonton, DOE Federal Coordinator; and Katrina Queen, Chemistry teacher at Piketon High School.

The final product created by students is the ASER 6 Student Summary document that includes sections on: Introduction and Compliance; Environmental Program Information; Environmental Radiological Program Information; Environmental Non-Radiological Program Information; and, Groundwater Programs. The student summary document also includes local and student artwork and photography along with other graphics to create a summary that is informative and interesting to the reader. 

 The final report and a short video of the student experience can be viewed at www.portsfuture.com.

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