Exploding hot dogs, aerial views just part of CoServ energy education

By NICHOLAS SAKELARIS | CoServ

From elementary schools to construction companies to First Responders across our service territory, CoServ’s Energy Education Team has stayed busy the past few months teaching various groups about electricity and the hazards it presents. This teaching experience also includes fun antics, such as blowing up a hot dog on a high voltage line or getting a view from above in a bucket truck.

The messages for children and adults are different but CoServ’s goal is the same: to educate and keep people safe. That includes presenting in a way that’s safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Most of the activities can be done outside at a safe distance to comply with Centers for Disease Control guidelines. The team not only teaches through electric arcing demos, but also natural gas safety presentations and career days that cover CoServ careers from lineman to internal support positions. And, because this year classroom instruction is not always possible, they teach circuit building and other activities virtually through CoServ Academy.

In addition to schools and First Responders, the team also provided interactive presentations for the City of Frisco, Collin College Fire Academy and Balfour Beatty, a Dallas-based construction company active in the North Texas area – among others.

“We tailor it to what they’re talking about in class or whomever the audience is, we apply it to the situation,” said Whitney Gohlke, a former master teacher who is now CoServ’s Manager of Academic Initiatives. “CoServ takes Energy Education seriously and we’re excited to be back out doing what we love in the community.”

At Prestwick STEM Academy in Little Elm ISD, Electric Lineman Jacob Barreiro showed off the gear he uses to climb poles, the tools for working on the lines and, much to the excitement and delight of the children, took teachers on a bucket truck ride 55 feet in the air. 

One second-grade girl loved what she saw so much she yelled, “I want to be a lineman!”

That’s just the kind of inspiration CoServ wants on Career Day. We’re always hiring and it’s never too early to start planning for your future. Visit CoServ.com/careers for job opportunities.

Justin Porterfield, CoServ’s Energy Education Specialist, did a presentation on Texas’ power mix – how much energy is generated by natural gas, wind, solar, coal and nuclear – for a group of boy scouts recently. He also did a circuit-building activity where the scouts learned the difference between simple, parallel and series circuits. All of it was done through a video call.

As the students built the different kinds of circuits, Justin had them remove light bulbs, then follow the path the electricity would take.

“Then, you could see the light bulb go off in their head as they got it and suddenly understood why all the lights went out after taking out one bulb on a simple circuit,” Justin said. “The feedback was amazing – when they returned the kits, they each had a thank you card handwritten by the boy scout.” 

CoServ’s Energy Education Team has been coming to Collin College Fire Academy for years.

“The presentation is very professional. They keep it to the level they need to for emergency response,” said Capt. Scott Kerr, Collin College Fire Academy Coordinator. “It’s one thing to cover it in the classroom but to see it and hear it, it always drives the point home a lot better.”

Another time, the team visited a construction site in Dallas where they presented in front of foremen for Balfour Beatty. There, they talked about electric risk assessment on the job site, from rock haulers accidentally hitting overhead power lines to the dangers of 480 volt 3-phase transformers.

They also did multiple presentations for Frisco employees from all departments, including home inspectors, tree trimming crews, the street and water department and first responders. Overall, about 300 employees attended their presentations over a day and a half at Warren Sports Complex in Frisco.

“It’s all about hazard recognition. We want first responders to know what to do if they respond to an accident with a live power line on a car or a burning house that’s energized,” Justin said. “The water department digs trenches so we want them to know to call 811 so they can avoid buried electric and natural gas lines.”

Tyler Williams, Safety Coordinator for the city of Frisco, said Justin and Alphonso “Kat” Williams, Energy Education Specialist, did a great job with the adult-level presentations and immediately switched it to child level for a group of children who came to the park.

“Those guys rock, they did a great job out here and they are so funny,” Tyler said. “They definitely enjoy it.”

If you would like to have CoServ’s Energy Education Team come out to your school, business or organization, visit CoServ.com/Presentations.

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