News Stories

Corps deployed employees discuss STEM with Virgin Island students

Published Nov. 1, 2017
 ST. THOMAS - A team of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers first responders met with more than 100 displaced students from the Addelita Cancryn Junior High School at the Charlotte Amalie High School   Ruth E. Thomas Auditorium, in Saint Thomas, United States Virgin Island, Oct. 19 to discuss how Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) career fields are being utilized during hurricane recovery efforts. 

“I was working with the USVI governmental staff in the EOC [Emergency Operations Center] and while talking with the Department of Education representative, Shamika Williams-Henley, I discovered she was also the school district’s STEM coordinator,” said Stephen Dunbar, a USACE Local Government Liaison cadre member from New England District.

The LGL role is intended to facilitate and enhance communication between the Corps’ planning and response teams and the impacted local government. Additional responsibilities include helping the impacted local government understand the National Response Framework and how to request and receive assistance. 

“The Corps of Engineers is providing 4.7 megawatts of power-if you combine all the generation power-of just St. Thomas, can someone guess how many I-Phones will that charge?” Dunbar asked the students.

The hurricanes severely damaged most of the schools on the islands of St. Thomas and St. John, and the Corps was additionally requested by FEMA to provide temporary power to schools identified by the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency (VITEMA).  Students from Addelita Cancryn Junior High School merged their campuses with the Amalie campus to ensure the students were accommodated with an educational facility.

“After talking with Steve we decided it would be great for our STEM students to talk to Corps team members about how their STEM education is assisting with the recovery,” said Williams-Henley. “I then texted several schools and the principal from Cancryn responded first.”

Dunbar accompanied by several civilian USACE PRT members and Soldiers continued to challenge students on their knowledge of math and understanding of science as it relates to the recovery operation. 

“Does anyone know what a mega is?” asked Maj. Andrew Freinberg, chief of staff for the Response Field Office-Forward at St. Thomas. 

Freinberg explained the values of prefixes and that a mega-watt equaled 1 million watts.  Armed with that knowledge students began their calculations to answer the initial question.  One student was able to answer the question and was cheered on by his fellow students.  The team continued to challenge the students with several additional questions providing them with a better outlook how STEM is being utilized in the Corps recovery effort.

"We may not be at home, but learning continues in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM)...the phoenix continues to rise," commented Dr. Lisa Hassell-Forde, the principal of Cancryn, on her Facebook page. 

The Corps is working in partnership with the local, territory, and federal response efforts for Hurricanes Irma and Maria.  There are more than 975 Corps personnel engaged and coordinating with local, territory and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) partners in Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The Corps’ number one priority continues to be the life, health and safety of all who were affected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. The Corp’s 12 Mission Assignments from FEMA include: temporary power, temporary roofing, debris removal and technical assistance, and infrastructure assessment.