A recent field trip for students from Anchor Bay North Middle School was a gas – literally – when they visited DTE Energy’s Belle River Mills Compressor Station.

This is the third year Anchor Bay Middle Students have visited Belle River Mills. Both the North and South middle schools usually participate but this year, Anchor Bay Middle School South had other obligations.

This is the third year Anchor Bay Middle Students have visited Belle River Mills. Both the North and South middle schools usually participate but this year, Anchor Bay Middle School South had other obligations.

A group of 29 sixth and seventh graders visited the gas transmission facility to learn how natural gas is stored and distributed to their homes. Students were able to see the various tanks, pipelines and cleaning process gas must go through before it can be safely used in their homes for heating, cooking and taking hot showers.

These Anchor North Middle School students are part of Project Lead the Way (PLTW), a nonprofit hands-on program that helps students develop STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) knowledge and skills. The name of their class is “Energy and the Environment,” which makes the Belle River Mills Compressor Station an ideal place for the students to visit, according to their teacher Mary Newman.

“The curriculum is put together by teachers as well as people in the industry and the problems we are solving are problems in the real world,” Newman said.

In this case, the problem the students are trying to solve is how to move away from fossil fuels and replace them with clean energy sources. Newman’s students spend a lot of time studying renewable energy like wind and solar electricity, biomass energy (generated from organic waste), hydroelectric (water sourced) and geothermal (steam) energy.

As a bonus, the students built eight models of working combustion engines that DTE donated, which are miniature versions of the machinery used at the station. The engines will be taken back to the school to be reverse engineered by other students.

“Belle River Mills also has a functioning wind turbine we studied to learn how it generates renewable electricity and gets that energy to the grid,” Newman said.

DTE employees taught the students about natural gas’ role in aiding renewable energy development by providing energy to cover renewables when there is no wind or sunshine.

Newman hopes her students walk away from the field trip with a better understand of energy consumption and distribution.

“The students get to go into the control room and engage with engineers who control the flow of gas, monitor gauges and teach the students what the readings mean,” Newman said.

The visit was a learning experience for seventh-grader Lawson Willis.

“I didn’t know how a combustion engine works and I learned the engine I helped build is like the motor in a car with cam shafts and pistons,” Willis said.

Willis’ classmate Marissa Eckhardt got a lot out of the energy distribution lesson.

“I was happy to see energy being sent to our home in action and how the whole system works,” Eckhardt said.

DTE employee, Susan King, Supervisor, Transmission Operations, initiated the field trips when her son, who’s an Anchor Bay South Middle School student, had the Energy and the Environment class and was part of the first group to visit DTE.

“I was talking to Ms. Newman at a parent teacher conference and realized what we do every day at the station would be a good fit for her students to see and learn about,” King said. “I invited them out and we’ve been doing it every year since.”

 

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