BPA scientists and engineers are offering morning and afternoon tours of the High-Voltage Labs on Take Your Child to Work Day.

It’s rewarding to think you may have sparked some interest to work for such a great organization focused on public service. 

John Wellschlager, BPA’s Power Sales and Purchases organization   
“It’s rewarding to think you may have sparked some interest to work for such a great organization focused on public service,” said John Wellschlager, an account executive in BPA’s Power Sales and Purchases organization.   

Wellschlager was referring to events BPA offered on Take Your Child to Work Day after a three-year pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On April 27, BPA offered tours of its Ross Complex labs and craft shops in Vancouver, Washington, the Library and Visitor Center in Portland, Oregon, as well as its Alvey and Eugene field sites further south.

Wellschlager beamed as he reflected on his experiences of taking his three children along to work years ago. They have all long since graduated from elementary school, the typical age of the children shadowing their parents, family members or caregivers during this unofficial nationwide day of learning about different vocations. Zoey, his youngest, now works as a physical scientist in BPA’s Environmental Protection program, which helps ensure that transmission grid installations and operations are in accordance with environmental protection laws such as the Clean Water Act. 

Thornton Smith, supervisory civil engineer in Transmission Systems and Communications Testing, also fondly recalled fondly taking his nephew to BPA’s Take Your Child to Work Day events a few years ago. 

“He was still in high school and had no idea what he wanted to do when he graduated, but after he came with me to tour the Ross Complex labs and saw all the amazing stuff that day, he decided he wanted to be a lineman,” said Smith.

After graduating, Smith’s nephew went to lineworker school and now works in the field for an electric utility construction services provider.

This year’s tours at BPA’s Ross Complex began at the  Mangan High Voltage Lab , BPA’s equipment testing facilities where everything from transmission lines to line crew harnesses are tested for safety, strength and service ability.  It was here the lab where they met “Dr. Science,” electrical engineer Kellie Robinson, who led hands-on activities and provided fun facts about the history of electricity and BPA’s role in the region. 

Next door, mechanical engineer Daniel Mullen and Electrical-Mechanical Test & Development Craftsman Roland Dizon demonstrated some of the machines that engineers use to test the strength of transmission equipment to ensure that it is safe and reliable to use on BPA's system.

Students then checked in at the chemistry lab to meet BPA's chemists: Brian Tuttle, Rashelle Simmons and Tammy Choonchuersup. Students learned how the chemists use science to test the makeup of fluids and oils used in high-voltage equipment. 

At the Carey High-Voltage Lab, kids watched as electrical engineer Josh Powers and EMTD craftsmen Julio Rivera and Tracy Bennett demonstrated the danger of fallen power lines using a special test set of power lines and a pendulum to draw out a huge electrical arc. The pendulum experiment teaches youngsters that electricity can travel through the air and still cause harm without directly touching it. 

The grand finale was a lightning demonstration that showcased BPA’s 5.6 million volt outdoor impulse generator. Powers explained that the impulse generator is used to test tools and equipment in order to keep workers safe. 

Kelly Jorgensen, an administrative services assistant who works in the Mangan Lab, has coordinated the event at Ross for years. She shared that in addition to the 500 kids who participated in the tours, another 200 were on the waiting list.

In the BPA Library in Portland, young visitors got to choose from an array of activities. 

“The activity involving building a circuit was one in particular my kids couldn’t stop talking about,” said Jess Shea, an operations research analyst in Enterprise Risk Management. 

The activity teaches basic engineering, electronics and circuitry concepts by using building components with snaps on a simple base grid. Other activities included reading age-appropriate historical information on electronic tablets and coloring in a drawing as part of an art contest.   

Elsewhere in the field, the staff of the Eugene District offices offered an array of activities for 18 kids. Staff met near the North Bend Maintenance Headquarters where kids enjoyed rides in utility task vehicles and Sno-Cats that are equipped with avalanche beacons for rescue missions. Back at the North Bend shop, employees grilled hot dogs and burgers, while substation maintenance employees safely demonstrated a cad weld. The day wrapped up with the opening of a substation switch to show the kids how crews route BPA’s power on its grid. 

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