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Part of the mission that CURENT—the Center for Ultra-Wide-Area Resilient Electric Energy Transmission Networks—undertook when it was founded was to engage the next generation of students in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering, and math.

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One sign of that effort’s incredible success returns to campus next week as the Adventures in STEM camp welcomes middle school girls from around East Tennessee for a hands-on look at the opportunities that await them in those fields.

“This is a great opportunity for us to show these young minds the possibilities that exist across these disciplines,” said Erin Wills, program coordinator. “This will be our fifth camp since 2011, the students enjoy the team-work environment and excitement of working with hands-on projects, and we feel like we’re making an impact.”

CURENT teams up with another on-campus group, NIMBioS—the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis—to develop the camp, which introduces students to everything from 3-D printing to turbines.

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From CURENT’s side, the girls will be tasked with a weeklong project that requires them to develop a power grid for a small community, complete with generation and distribution problems and capabilities. Success will be measured by their ability to power lights, motors, and sounds in the community at the end of the week through their design.

For NIMBios, biology and mathematics are the name of the game. Students in previous years have utilized knowledge of cells, modeling, biodiversity, and animals to help shape their understanding of the ecosystem.

Teams will also get to go on a field trip relevant to their chosen area, such as Oak Ridge National Laboratory or the UT College of Veterinary Medicine. AMS Corporation, headed by UT alumnus H. M. “Hash” Hashemian, will serve as a new destination this year, giving students insight into a company that works with every nuclear power station in the United States.

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Around twenty girls are expected to attend this, with the most distant participant coming from Memphis.

“Hash has been very active promoting women in engineering and supportive to our STEM Adventure Camp,” said Wills.

Other contributors to the program this year and over the past few years include professor Suzanne Lenhart and research associate Kelly Sturner of NIMBioS, research professor Chen-fei Chen of CURENT, and Riverdale Middle School science teacher Jessica Minton.


David Goddard (865-974-0683,