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Students take a rare Boone Dam tour

By Jim Conrad, jconrad@wcyb.com
Published On: May 13 2014 05:01:25 PM CDT
Updated On: May 13 2014 04:58:00 PM CDT

A teacher in Unicoi County realized some of the students had never been on a boat before, so she set up a day-trip on six pontoon boats.

SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. -

For some lucky fifth graders their field trip will go down at the best one ever.

They've been working on projects about the Tennessee Valley Authority since last fall. Students who came up with the best ideas got the chance of a lifetime -- a trip inside Boone Dam.

It's one thing to learn about the mysteries of creating electric power from the master himself, "Dr. Energy," in a classroom setting, and quite another to learn about it first-hand.

A group of Sullivan County fifth graders got the chance to march down the many steps to the base of Boone Dam for a first-hand look at what makes this engineering marvel work. That included a rare glimpse of the spillways being opened and millions of gallons of water rushing downstream.

It's that power of water that makes the turbines at the base of the dam turn and create electricity.

Down the kids went to examine the turbines up close, and down even further to about 110 feet below lake level to the base of the dam.

The students got this opportunity by participating in a project encouraged by the TVA to teach more about the utility. "The TVA came to us in the fall and said they wanted to do a project with our fifth graders. In the social studies standards, the TVA is mentioned, and that's how they came up with fifth grade," STEM specialist Ruth Leonard said.

The students created papers, produced videos, and made models, all about the TVA. In doing so they created their own power in a model home. "We had to make a turbine. It was made out of styrofoam and plastic spoons, and it spun. It had a gear on it and a motor," Bluff City Elementary fifth grader Mason Montgomery said.

"We kind of figured that if we could get the motor to run, somehow figure out how to get the motor electricity to run to the light on the house, then we could get it to work," added teammate Tanner Moncier.

"When the turbine spins, when the water hit it, the turbine spun and it made the motor spin, which turned on a light on a cabin out there," says another team member Caden Richardson.

"And then the power went through the poles, it hit the light, and the light turned on," says teammate Ethan Bradford.

It seems just like what the hydro-electric plant does, except on a smaller scale.