LOS ANGELES – LA Unified School District and STEM Academy educators and administrators took a field trip to the Whittier Narrows Dam on Dec. 6. The school tours, which are normally earmarked for students, gave educators an insight into what their students experience when they visit the site. U.S. Army Corps of Engineer Los Angeles District, which operates and maintains the dam, promotes STEM by hosting visits to their sites.
Civil Engineer Captain Eugene Park, was on hand to welcome the group and share his experience as a Military Academy student and USACE engineer.
“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District recognizes the critical role that science, technology, engineering and mathematics education plays in the success of our organization. We are committed to teaming with local educators to strengthen STEM-related programs that inspire current and future generations of young people to pursue careers in STEM fields.”
Dam operations supervisor Louie Munoz, escorted visitors through the dam to the machinery used to lower and raise the flood control gates. Civil Engineer Funke Ojuri provided additional WND technical details and explained the dam’s significance to the local community.
The District’s Regulatory Environmental Engineer Gerry Salas, and Biologist Steve Estes, led the group’s dam basin tour. Estes explained the habitat surrounding the dam and the various species that call the basin home. Estes and Salas share a responsibility to safeguard the environment around the dam while balancing the needs of the community.
“Whittier Narrows Dam is both a flood management and water conservation project so it’s an ideal location to inform individuals about some of the Corps’ key missions and the various STEM careers needed for civil works projects,” said Estes. “As a biologist for the Corps, it’s important that we inform students and educators to local species and habitats, the Corps’ environmental programs, and career opportunities within their community.”
Educators and administrators from the Port of Los Angeles, Local District South, East San Gabriel Valley and STEM Academy participated in the tour. For most guest, it was their first time WND.
“I had no idea that all of this goes on,” said Annette Del Rio, English teacher for the STEM Academy. “As a STEM school, this entire tour fits into each one of those categories: science, technology, engineering, and math. We aren’t exposed to these fields so it’s hard for us to let our student know what opportunities are out there so this exposure is very helpful.”
A question and answer session with Corps engineers and USACE Army internship graduates rounded out the tour. Each explained their interest in STEM, academic background and job responsibilities for the Corps.
“It was very interesting and informative,” said Del Rio. “I feel like I learned a lot that I can take back.”