February 11, 2023

Employees engage young learners at Woodland STEM Night

ATC employees recently participated in the Woodland Elementary STEM Night in Kingsford, Mich. About 300 kindergarten through fourth grade students and 500 parents attended the event. ATC was one of 16 local businesses to participate.

Models and materials table

ATC employees offered various models of transmission line structures, samples of conductor material, an insulator and a bird diverter for students to interact with and learn about. The kids loved looking at the different types of t-line structures including the lattice tower, steel monopole, wood H-frame and a Lego tower. We asked students if they knew what the structures were for, and many students knew that they were for electricity, and some even knew the difference between conductors and insulators. They were surprised at how big the conductors were!

Forestry activity table

The kids also participated in a fun, educational activity where they got to learn about tree anatomy. Our employees used wood cookies (cross sections of small trees two to three inches in diameter) with one side painted white and a small hole drilled for twine to tie a loop for the kids to hang their art. The students got to decorate the painted side as a snowman. On the unpainted side, the kids learned to age their snowman art by counting the tree rings. There were a handful of students that already knew how to age a tree, but most did not, and all enjoyed figuring out how old their snowman was. One student made it a challenge to find the oldest tree cookie snowman, which was 23 years old.

Additionally, we displayed a couple of cross sections from a larger oak tree that died from oak wilt in 2020. The tree was 70 years old. The cross sections displayed a timeline of major US history events that happened during that tree’s life, beginning in 1950.

While looking at the cross sections, one employee, who is a vegetation management specialist, had conversations with children and parents about what can be learned from trees such as atmospheric conditions from hundreds to thousands of years ago. Our employee explained that cross sections can also tell us when a tree is having difficulty growing due to conditions such as drought, flooding, fire and disease based on how large or small each annual growth ring was. The employee also described how trees move water and nutrients up and down the tree, as well as across the tree via medullary rays. We used these conversations with kids and parents to talk about the importance of having the right tree in the right place, and why ATC needs to manage vegetation on our rights-of-way for safety and electric reliability.

Essentially, the event was filled with electric transmission education disguised as fun activities – a great way for kids to learn about what we do at ATC!