Photo Gallery: Students celebrate Earth Day at ERDC

Published 10:06 am Monday, April 24, 2023

The U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) hosted an Earth Day event on Thursday. About 100 students from schools across Warren County had the opportunity to see demonstrations by engineers about the research they are performing at the facility in Vicksburg.

A dozen booths were set up for students to peruse, and each was staffed by experts in their respective fields of research.

The Chief of the Coastal Engineering Branch at ERDC, Lauren Duncan, manned a booth with a wave machine about 10 feet long constructed of clear acrylic and filled with water. She used it to demonstrate to students how different structures and formations can affect the size and strength of waves.

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“We’ve got the wave paddle there, so we’re making different wave conditions. What we’re having the students do is measure wave height,” she said. “We also have a couple of mini-Corps Lock structures (models of larger structures river engineers use to control erosions). So we’ll have (the students) make the wave… and test the conditions of the waves without structure and then with structure. These are going to break up the wave condition so that you’re going to have fewer waves on one side and then higher waves on the other.”

Another booth showed students the different kinds of unmanned vehicles currently being developed for a variety of applications at the research center. These included an autonomous wheeled vehicle with a lifesize plastic coyote mounted on top for scaring away geese from sensitive areas on the station, and a Boston Dynamics Spot, a four-legged robot capable of walking across difficult terrain not suitable for a wheeled vehicle.

Students also learned about how closely engineers at ERDC work with the field of biology and ecology. One booth, run by ERDC’s leading Research Forester, Dr. Nathan Beane, had a variety of tree cross-sections. Students were taught about how scientists can learn from the sometimes centuries-old data that can be observed from a tree’s annual rings, and the procedure for taking physical samples of a tree without damaging it.

The Mississippi River chapter of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) was also represented at the event, run by several ERDC engineers in the organization. One of them was Samantha Weist, a research engineer at the Environmental Lab at ERDC and the Outreach Coordinator for her chapter of SWE.

“We do a lot of work trying to get involved with the community,” Weist said. “I know that I feel really good about going to schools and talking to students in Vicksburg, trying to just get them interested in the idea of Stem.”

This was the first time ERDC has hosted an Earth Day event for students since 2019. The event did not take place for the past several years due to concerns about the COVID pandemic.