Big Bend Power Station: site of a big win for education

Tampa Electric's Tim Conway, in the white hat, welcomes the students to Big Bend Power Station.

Tampa Electric’s Tim Conway, in the white hat, welcomes the students to Big Bend Power Station.

For these students, the power of education adds up to far more than 1,700 megawatts. That’s because along with the up-close look at how Tampa Electric powers the community with reliable, affordable electricity generated at the Big Bend Power Station, they also saw a multitude of career possibilities to pursue.

The more than two dozen middle-school students came to TECO on July 1 as part of a program administered by the Florida Advanced Technological Education Center (FLATE) housed at Hillsborough Community College’s Brandon Campus. Donning their bright orange hard hats at the power station, they had Senior Consulting Engineer Tim Conway as their guide.

“These are middle-school school kids who don’t often get a chance to see something like Big Bend Power Station except off in the distance, like most people do,” he said. “There’s some pretty cool stuff here; the students were in utter awe on the tour.”

Project Manager Nina Stokes, with FLATE, praised the opportunity Tampa Electric gave the students – the third such visit in recent years.

The students get a close-up look at the inner workings of a power station.

The students get a close-up look at the inner workings of a power station.

“These students are from the Ruskin area, so many of them can see Big Bend from their homes,” she said. “TECO seemed like the perfect setting to show them a host of career opportunities.”

Best of all, the students agreed. A sampling of feedback they provided after the visit:

“I learned that many people work at TECO and enjoy working there.”

“The best part of the tour was going to all the units and learning that our lives depend on TECO to live the way we live.”

“I learned a lot of things about transformers and the big machinery inside the building was cool as well as the turbines. It was a fun experience.”

Stokes said that this year’s group of students was the program’s biggest yet.

Do field trips get much cooler than this?

Do field trips get much cooler than this?

“The TECO tour is an integral component of the camp as it helps students see real-life applications of energy concepts they are learning about in the classroom,” she added. “The tour experience had a significant positive impact.”

For Conway, with his longtime tenure as a youth football coach, the visit was like a game-winning touchdown in the name of education and commitment to the community – even if these students have plenty of time left on the clock to learn, grow … and perhaps find their way to a career at TECO?

Based on his experience, that seems entirely possible.

“The kids love it every time,” Conway said of the tours. “I always get raves.”

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