Savannah River Site Engineers Mentor Students for STEM Capstone Project

1 year ago
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AIKEN, S.C. – Savannah River Remediation (SRR), EM’s liquid waste contractor at the Savannah River Site (SRS), sponsored four University of South Carolina Aiken (USCA) engineering students for their science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) capstone project.

“Partnering with the University of South Carolina Aiken extends the site’s involvement in the community and local institutions,” DOE-Savannah River Assistant Manager for Waste Disposition Jim Folk said. “Engaging engineering students with multi-discipline areas of design ensures interest in STEM-related careers at the Savannah River Site.”

SRR engineers Kevin Brotherton, Dan Iverson and John Owen, who work in the Defense Waste Processing Facility melter group, sponsored the students to share a glimpse of real-world engineering at SRS. The students’ project focused on the shielded canister transporter (SCT), a unique 18-foot-tall, 25-foot-long, 235,000-pound vehicle that performs high-level waste canister maneuvering activities.

“Our goal was to engage the students’ creative and critical thinking skills to develop realistic plans for improving the one-of-a-kind shielded canister transporter,” said Brotherton. “We proved that the knowledge learned in the classroom is directly applicable to real-world work at the Savannah River Site.”

The SCT was designed and fabricated more than 30 years ago to operate until the conclusion of the site’s liquid-waste program. Throughout the years, SRR has improved its operability.

Using STEM principles, the students evaluated some of the SCT’s specifications, such as its diesel engines and hydraulic system, to devise ideas to improve the transporter’s efficiency and safety. Some ideas generated by the students included replacing all hydraulic tasks, like steering, with electric motors, which would decrease the time to ready the SCT for operation.

USCA engineering student Richard King participated in the capstone project and was fascinated to learn that when you look closely at the large and complex SCT, it was built with fairly simple parts.

“Before attending USCA, I was a dental lab technician in the U.S. Army. It was a difficult decision to choose to go to college full time instead of settling into my trade, but now it's easy to see that I made the right decision,” King said. “Making dentures was nice, but there's a whole other level of satisfaction that comes from working with talented engineers on a project like this.”

Brotherton, Iverson and Owen will continue to work with the students throughout the second semester of the capstone class, which began this month and focuses on detailed design ideas, including vendor and equipment suggestions.

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