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Posted 7/6/2009

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Today a Kentucky Governor’s Scholar. A few years from now, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers employee.

That’s the idea behind one of the Corps’ annual outreach programs pairing Governor’s Scholars with Corps leaders for a day of learning and fun. The Corps is always on the look out for brainpower, and the Governor’s Scholars are a reliable source for future talent.

“We are recruiting,” said Louisville District Chief of Civil Engineering John Allison. “We’re no different than the basketball program at the University of Kentucky. You have UK coaches go and look at players who are in the eighth grade. We’re trying to get this group interested in coming to the Corps.”

The Governor's Scholars Program is held on three college campuses during the summer. For five weeks, including weekends, scholars attend classes and participate in community activities. All subjects, ranging from math and science to the arts and cultural studies, are taught in a non-traditional, interdisciplinary mode.

Noted scientists, writers, thinkers, and business, government and educational leaders visit the campuses to interact with students.

Scholars apply for the program while they’re in their junior year. Selection is based on academic achievement, student profile, essay, and teacher recommendations.

This year, the Corps hosted the 54 scholars who spent five weeks at Morehead State University. On the morning of June 24, the soon-to-be high school seniors boarded two busses for the 15-minute ride to Cave Run Lake, located in the northern section of Daniel Boone National Forest.

The scholars then divided into eight groups before embarking on the day’s assignment—designing a boat ramp with a parking lot and access road while also taking into consideration flood control plans. Four groups boarded pontoon boats and headed to the site, while the other groups toured the dam and listened to a flood control briefing.

After the site inspection, the scholars and Corps leaders bussed back to Morehead State to work on their designs for the boat ramp. There was barely enough time—two hours—to complete the project, but that was by design. The constraint forced group members to set enough time aside to briefly address each problem.

“They have to act like a team,” said Louisville District Chief of Environmental Engineering Chris Karem. “They have to turn a blank sheet of paper into a design and they have to work as a team.”

Scholars used a combination of science and math skills, engineering scales and manuals, and contour maps to complete their project designs. After two hours, groups presented their designs to their peers and Corps leaders.

Cole Keller, a soon-to-be senior at Mercer County High School, said the Corps’ academic exercise was a challenge.

“All the rules and particulars, they really made us think twice about everything,” he said. “It’s a good educational experience. They put you in situations you normally don’t find yourself in.”

(Editor’s note: Funding for the pontoon boat ride, food, and assignment portfolio was provided by the Society of American Military Engineers, Kentuckiana Post.)