More Than a Career — Valley Students Explore Engineering at Summer STEM Camp

High school sophomores Emily Gasser and Kyle Landreth explore engineering opportunities close to home with TVA's 5th annual Transmission STEM Camp.

June 22, 2021 – For high school sophomores Emily Gasser and Kyle Landreth, engineering is more than a career choice — it means family and good memories.

“I spent a lot of time with my grandfather when I was younger,” Ivy Academy student, Landreth said. “Even after he retired from engineering, I remember him always building, welding and selling trailers. When he was closer to the end of his life, he was still building and making things. He taught me a lot about engineering, so did my dad, and I have a lot of admiration for them both.”

“My dad has always been there and making sure he provides for us,” Ooltewah High School student, Gasser said. “I could tell that he’s always loved his job. He told me a while back that he taught himself how to code because they didn’t have programs like we do now. Seeing how much passion he has for his job makes me happy, and it inspires me to do the same.”

This admiration and inspiration have led both Gasser and Landreth to explore engineering opportunities close to home, which included TVA’s 5th annual Transmission STEM Camp. 

Virtual Changes and Surprises

STEM Camp

Transmission line system modeled from paper and string by Emily Gasser.

Last week, Gasser, Landreth joined with other Valley high school students to participate in camp activities designed to give them a closer look at what it’s like for an everyday engineer. 

Though students and camp facilitators were interacting virtually this year, TVA STEM Camp Coordinator and Project Development Manager for TPS Project Services, Kara Mitchell wanted to ensure that the event was as engaging as previous, in-person events.

“Taking the camp virtual was a huge challenge for all of us, but we really didn’t want to cancel like we had to in 2020 and lose our interaction with an entire class,” Mitchell said. “We had students who had signed up for the 2020 event emailing us every month until 2021 signups were opened, asking if the event was still on.”

Students received a large package in the mail a week before the five-day event that included all the supplies that they would need to actively participate. TVA’s Transmission and Power Supply and support teams prepared presentations and included kits and supplies in the students’ packages that allowed them to perform various engineering experiments — even long after the camp is over.

Those experiments included: building and testing generators; constructing transmission line systems from paper and string; building substation structures and shake tables to test their engineering skills; wiring and testing virtual bread boards on Tinker CAD; and much more.

Any high school student (boy or girl) could apply for this year’s Transmission STEM camp, and both Landreth and Gasser agreed that it was well worth their time.

“There aren’t a lot of women in STEM, and I want to continue to help to diversify the field,” Gasser said. “So, I would definitely come back to the camp. I’m actually doing a mechatronics program this coming school year, and I’ll want to apply my new knowledge next time around and see if I’ve grown.”

“This was a great experience overall,” echoed Landreth. “I was especially surprised to hear the amount of steps that are being taken by TVA for the sake of the environment. I think it’s admirable of TVA to be willing to try new things in working towards a more sustainable future.”

Mitchell said whether the next STEM camp is in-person or virtual, she and her coworkers are dedicated to sharing their excitement for engineering and innovation with the younger generation. “These students are our future here at TVA and throughout the Valley,” Mitchell said. “The whole purpose of this camp is to engage them early, and to give them a diverse group of role models to look up to.”