Hilltop Seventh Graders Experience Northwestern Electric

LOOK WHAT A MYLAR BALLOON DOES … These Hilltop seventh graders and Bryan High School students were quite shocked to see the room light up when it was demonstrated what happens when a mylar balloon comes in contact with an electric wire. Demonstrators Chris Everetts and Joe Belcher held the students’ attention for quite a while, showing them how the lines work and what happens in a number of different situations. (PHOTO BY REBECCA MILLER, STAFF)

By: Rebecca Miller

Energy Day was held at the Bryan, Ohio Northwestern Electric Cooperative (NWEC) facility located on State Route 576. Students from three different schools attended, with forty seventh graders from Hilltop piling off their bus at 12:15 with their Science teacher Abbie Smith and two other adult chaperones. The students were welcomed by Director of Marketing and Communications, Pearl Rakes, who then had Ms. Smith split them into three groups to head out for different mini sessions of learning.

Over the next hour, the fascinated middle-schoolers spent twenty minutes at each of three locations learning about the different aspects of electricity and this company who was hosting them. The three sessions covered:
1. Solar Field/Generation of electricity was led by Ben Wilson, Manager of Ohio’s Electric Cooperatives, of which NWEC is a member. Mr. Wilson first explained about all of the different sources of generations, such as coal, nuclear, wind and solar energy. He then gave the students a tour of the onsite solar field, explaining how it works and even allowing them to touch the solar panels. The day was a perfect one for solar energy as it was cold and very sunny.

2. What Linemen do was led by three NWEC Linemen, with Dustin Everetts explaining the tools they use and how they do their job. Braden Miller climbed a pole, demonstrating how they keep themselves safe while working on the pole. Levi Brandt climbed into one of the NWEC trucks, clambered into the bucket and proceeded to thrill the kids by going up to work at the top of the pole.

Present at this outdoor site were two hands on centers where the students got to put on the rubber arm guards and large protective gloves and race each other to complete tasks. It showed them how difficult it is for the linemen to accomplish their tasks and how focused and well trained they must be.

3. Who Northwestern Electric Cooperative is and What makes them different from other electric companies. This session was led by Pearl Rakes and was held in the company board room, where the students felt pretty important seated around the huge conference table in comfortable chairs. Rakes used a colorful PowerPoint to explain what a co-op is, how it saves their parents a lot of money and what the different departments do to keep electricity flowing.

The group gathered as a whole to witness some training with actual high voltage lines, along with ten Bryan High School students who were there with their Northwest State Community College professor Karl Boeker, for their Custom Training Solutions class. Systems Engineer Chris Everetts welcomed the kids after they had gotten their snack and a bottle of water, found a seat and quieted down for what looked like it might be a fun demonstration.

As Everetts explained the parts of the high voltage demonstration setup, Journeyman Lineman Joe Belcher quietly did whatever was being described. Everetts taught about the proper clothing, equipment and insulation needed for the linemen.

He also explained how to stay safe if anyone ever finds themselves where there is live electricity. Jumping from a car if it is in a setting where you can’t just wait for help to arrive is done without touching the car at all, landing on both feet at the same time. Then to get away one must shuffle very slowly, keeping the feet close together, and not moving your heal of one foot past the toes of the other until you are far enough away.

He said that the way to check that is too slowly put one foot a little further ahead of the other and if it starts to tingle, put it back and keep shuffling a couple hundred more feet, then check again.
The best part for the kids was that they got to see and hear what it looks and sounds like when things come in contact with high voltage.

Belcher showed a tree branch laying on a wire, how it would cook human flesh by demonstrating with a hotdog, what it sounds like when a squirrel touches an insulator and their favorite, what happens when a Mylar balloon hits a wire!

It was quite a revelation as the balloon lit up and made a big fire right on the wire. Everetts asked all present to please remember to poke a hole in any leftover balloons, even before putting them in the trash as they can cause a lot of damage and outages if they get away.

One new addition within the last few years is a frisbee shaped disk that can be put near the insulators so that an animal gets a small enough shock to only scare it away instead of kill it. Everetts said that it has cut down on the number of outages caused by small animals and birds.

At 2:15, a noisy bunch of middle school kids headed for their bus, chattering about the things they had heard and seen at Northwestern Electric Cooperative that day.

Rebecca can be reached at publisher@thevillagereporter.com

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