Not just energy production

Sometimes you just have to go kayaking with 25 random people that you met less than a week ago and have the time of your life.

Bruce gives a kayaking lesson

Bruce gives a kayaking lesson

As a group, we woke earlier than usual, but we got to watch the sun rise over the mountains so we took it as a win. We loaded up all of our gear and headed towards the Ocoee River. As we arrived at the river, directions were given and kayaks were unloaded and you could feel the anticipation in the air. After dragging our kayaks down to the water, we were off. Perhaps not as quickly or as gracefully as we all had hoped but nevertheless, we were making our way to Caney Creek.

Morgan and Mona make their way up the river.

Morgan and Mona make their way up the river.

Bruce Guilliame, our fearless leader, taught us about the effect progress has had on the people of Southeastern Tennessee. Caney Creek was a 14 home village on the bank of the Ocoee River that housed workers for Ocoee Powerhouse Number Two. The people of Caney Creek had only one link to the outside world and that was a swinging rope bridge, so they had to create their own fun. Despite being isolated from the world, they were ahead of most of it with running water and electricity. The town was full of life from 1912 until the last family moved away in 1943. When TVA took over the dams the people of Caney Creek were told they had to vacate their tiny village and they were out of a job just as the Great Depression settled over the country. It was strange to see a town that was so full of life, houses, hotels, and people now gone and being reclaimed by nature. All that is left is the moss covered foundations of the old houses. I couldn’t quite wrap my mind around the fact that life as they had known it was literally torn and moved from its foundations. This historic town has almost completely vanished, much like other towns that were vacated due to government projects. I find it ironic that TVA’s progress was supposed to push people forward, but it tore the people of Caney Creek down.

Some of the Caney Creek ruins

Some of the Caney Creek ruins

Learning about TVA operations

Learning about TVA operations

Before making our way to TVA we all circled up for lunch. It amazes me every time to see how much food this group can eat, I’m still not used to it. Once at TVA offices, we learned that, TVA provides electricity for 9 million people in parts of seven southeastern states at prices below the national average. TVA receives no taxpayer money and makes no profits. It also provides flood control, navigation and land management for the Tennessee River system and water recreation for the local community and its visitors.

We were welcomed to TVA by a tech specialist who patiently answered all of the questions we had racing through our minds. He talked about the difficulty of managing the oldest working wooden flume diversion dam in the country. TVA is one of the few historic sites still producing electricity. The kayaking trip exposed me to a piece of history that I never knew about and it gave me a new appreciation for Southeastern Tennessee and my new home.

Submitted by Morgan Gast, 2015 Scots Science Scholar

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Science in our backyard: Oak Ridge National Lab

DSC_0749      Our most recent journey has taken us to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.  The lab not only holds a key component to our future, but a strong hold to our past.  ORNL was part of the Manhattan Project during World War II.  The purpose of the Manhattan Project was to manipulate, study, and create atomic weapons out of Uranium.  Oak Ridge was chosen because of its hidden location.  Today, Oak ridge National Laboratory remains as one of the top notch laboratories in the nation, maybe even the world.

Flags representing the countries where ORNL scientists are from.

Flags representing the countries where ORNL scientists are from.

Now that the history lesson has concluded, we commence with the exciting part of this blog.  Our day began earlier than most days should, before noon.  Anyway, my fellow Scots Science Scholars, our Peer Mentors, Professors, and I made our way to the Lab via two buses.  The weather was typical of a Tennessee summer, really hot and humid.  We were directed to dress “business casual” in order to impress our “possible” future colleagues.  It’s what we Maryville College students do, impress.  The first part of our trek through the lab brought us to the nearest bathroom, which was very important at the time.  However, possibly the coolest part for me, was on the way to the bathroom I saw this beautiful wall.  The wall was filled to the brim, inch-by-inch, with flags.  These flags represented the workers and where they came from.  This amazed me that so many people from all over the world come to this small part of Tennessee to work.  They could have chosen New York City or San Francisco, but they chose Oak Ridge.

The supercomputer room where Titan and Kraken are housed.

The supercomputer room where Titan and Kraken are housed.

The graphite reactor, where it all began.

The graphite reactor, where it all began.

The first part of our tour brought us to see Titan, one of the world’s largest super computers.  The Computer Science majors of our family, Cole, Zach, and Evan, had a field day listening to the tour guide talk about Titan and its other super computer pals.  Oak ridge is currently working on rising back to the top of the world in super computer speed by building a new computer.  Its estimated time of completion is in the next two to three years.

After saying goodbye to the glorious refrigerator-like computers, we hopped in our cars and headed to the site of the first nuclear reactor.  In this segment of our tour, we were able to learn how the workers who worked during World War II lived and did their job.  The leaders of the Manhattan Project at the Oak Ridge site had to spring up houses by the hundreds to accommodate for the scientists, laborers, and every other person they hired to take part in this game-changing plan. These houses were basic and as cookie cutter as could be.  The workers did not have it that easy.  Nuclear reactors were new tech at the time.  A lack in cooling systems basically meant you could blow up at any time.

Touring the spallation neutron source

Touring the spallation neutron source

To end our time at ORNL, we journeyed to the Spallation Neutron Source.  This is where the scientists at ORNL shoot neutrons at super high speeds and analyze the results.  They can use this technique for detailed imaging and various other tests.  The “track” that was used to shoot the neutrons took up a majority of the facility.  This part was probably my favorite part solely because of the ground-breaking science occurring beneath my feet, literally!

I asked some of my fellow S3 peers to use one word to describe their experience at ORNL:

  • Cool
  • Fun
  • Eye Opening
  • Once in a lifetime Experience
  • Interesting
  • Amazing
  • Surreal
  • Refreshing

And the word that I would use to describe my trip to ORNL would have to be…Exceptional.  This trip was just one of many great opportunities we will have during these three weeks.  These trips give us the chance to see our dreams applied to real world applications as well as giving us a greater chance of landing a summer internship!  Overall, I myself am very grateful to have this opportunity to see the scientific world that we have in our own backyard.

Submitted by Charles “Boomer” Russell, 2015 Scots Science Scholar

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment