Written by Rachel Strickland, Scots Science Scholars 2016
Waking up at 5:15 on Wednesday morning was honestly brutal, but it didn’t hinder the fact that I was incredibly excited to go kayaking. As we arrived and the kayaks were laid out, I felt like a kid in a candy shop. One of the kayaks was orange and white, and I just knew I had to have it. I threw my paddle on, secured my GoPro, and carried the kayak down a bank to the water. As Bruce, from Mountain Challenge, helped others into their kayaks, many of us paddled in circles and practically played bumper cars.
Afterwards, we all lined up and held each others’ boats as we posed for pictures and talked with Bruce on kayaking basics. Dr. Gibson then proceeded to explain what we were measuring from the river. At two different locations, we measured the pH levels, temperature, the amount of light hitting the surface of the water, and the clarity of the water using a Secchi disk. Managing the equipment was a little tricky, but we were able to get consistent measurements.
Lunch was next on the schedule, so we had a picnic and loaded the boats up. We then headed over to TVA, Tennessee Valley Authority, to learn about the history of the company and dams. We learned that the Ocoee River has three dams, all primarily used for power generation. We were kayaking on Ocoee #1. We then learned how the dams actually work. They will open a set of gates that allow water to flow into a penstock. From there it will flow into the water wheel, and it will be spun around and around as it then will travel into a shaft. From that shaft, it will then move into a generator where it will be turned into electricity, and transferred onto the grid. Next, we learned about the 1996 Summer Olympics at Ocoee #3, and how TVA has and uses the nation’s longest wooden flume. The flume is four miles long and has the illusion of running uphill, even though it is running downhill.
All in all, it was a great day with great friends! We learned so much and had a blast on the river. This has been my favorite part of the program so far, and I can’t wait for more fun to come!