Dozens of Riverside high school students recently participated in several days of intensive, hands-on training with the Riverside Public Utilities Department to learn about potential careers in the utilities industry.
The Science and Technology Education Partnership (STEP) initiative provided 70 students with Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) training through experiential learning and gave them the opportunity to apply those skills in the Riverside Public Utilities Learning Lab (PULL).
Employees of the various divisions of Riverside Public Utilities (RPU) provided the curriculum for STEM PULL. The curriculum included lineman demonstrations with bucket trucks and equipment; the role STEM plays in the utility industry; field trips to the Riverside Energy Resource Center, Wastewater Treatment Plant, and Customer Service Locations.
The training also focused on team skills development, 3-D computer design and printing, laser cutting and engraving, welding and woodworking, electronics and soldering, engineering and water reuse processes and water quality testing, Brick Pi Robots; advanced utility technologies, IT, cyber security; public benefits, community engagement and crisis communication workshops.
At the end of the week, students developed and presented their innovative STEM PULL projects during the design challenge competition. Riverside Public Utilities Board members attended the presentations and judging.
Twelve teams of 4-5 students presented their concepts to a panel of judges. The top three teams won scholarships of $1000, $750 and $500. Even more valuable however, is the students’ ability to participate in a year-long mentorship opportunity with Gordon Bourns, Bourns, Inc. and graduate students from both the UCR and CBU Bourn’s College of Engineering.
The first-place winners for their project “Line Down,” an app that would detect problems with utility poles and utilize GIS technology to locate the exact location of the faulty poles. Included team members Samuel Green, Jordan Whiting and Brett Hile of Martin Luther King High School and Leonardo Acosta of STEM Academy High School.
Second place winners were recognized for their project “Leak Master,” a sensor that would be placed on all new pipes as they are installed, which would notify RPU of pipe leaks that are too small to be detected from above ground included Isaac Garcia and Caleb Van Haster of Woodcrest Christian High School and Iliana Lazaro, Leslie Zamora and Jose Ibarra of Arlington High School.
Finally, placing third for their project P.A.T. (Public Alert technology), a sensor that would be used with GIS technology to immediately identify and specifically locate outages and problems in transmission lines were Molly Dewitt and Shevani Patel of Arlington High School and representing La Sierra High School, Shahnawaz Lateef, David Polach and Angela Figueroa.
“When the students got up and presented their projects, I was floored with how knowledgeable they were in such a short period of time and the amount of effort and out-of-the-box thinking the projects entailed,” said Jo Lynne Russo-Pereyra, Chair of the Board of Public Utilities. She continued, “Their parents were in the audience, and they’re learning not only about RPU, but also infrastructure needs through the eyes of their children. It really shows the value of a public utility to the community.”
Through the mentorship program students will have the opportunity to continue to work on their projects and further refine their ideas. At the end of the mentorship process, some teams may even be on their way to having a marketable project and/or a patent on their idea.
Students in the mentorship program will also have many opportunities to participate in community activities, such as presenting at a City Council meeting or other events.