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ODOT shows grade-school guests science in action
"Day of science" culminates at the Willamette River Bridge
ODOT hosts grade-school guests
ODOT hosts grade-school guests
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics are some of the best paying and have the greatest potential for job growth in the early 21st century. Oregon boasts several top-tier graduate programs in engineering, and young professionals entering the construction field are vital to boosting a recovering local economy.
 
All that many children need to embrace science, technology, engineering and mathematics studies is to get an up-close look at science in action. Two classes of Veneta Elementary School second graders recently got that chance with their teachers and parent chaperones. They capped their "day of science" with a visit to the Interstate 5 Willamette River Bridge project, where they stepped behind the orange cones to see how a bridge is built.
 
Their day began with a nature walk and a trip to the Science Factory near Autzen Stadium in Eugene. After lunch, a contractor for the Oregon Department of Transportation in a traffic control truck escorted their school bus, with lights flashing, to the north staging area of the work zone.
 
The students split into three groups to explore different aspects of bridge construction. One group walked out on the Knickerbocker bike bridge with Hamilton Construction Manager Jeff Firth, who explained the sequence of building bridges. He also discussed some of the project's environmental and park improvements. The children were amazed at the size of the bridge, even from the distant vantage point on Knickerbocker.
 
Upon arrival at the construction staging area, Karl Wieseke, ODOT construction manager, led his group of students through safety protocols and let them suit up in adult-size reflective vests, hardhats and goggles. The students stood in awe of one of the massive construction cranes, which had wheels that were taller than their teacher.
 
The last session was a lesson on concrete. Hamilton Construction Manager Con O'Connor told his group that the cement truck process was similar to mixing a cake, an analogy that drew laughs from the students. The group also discussed the elements of construction: labor, materials, equipment and know-how.
 
The field trip was exciting for the students and rewarding to those building the bridge.
 
"We all really enjoyed our visitors," said Wieseke. "We made them promise to come back and visit when they are fourth graders."