MEPS students get first-hand look behind electric system

BY IVAN SANDERS
CITY OF ELIZABETHTON PIO
From trying to pick up a quarter with a pair of 20,000-volt protected gloves to watching a simulation of a fallen wire setting a miniature house on fire, the Elizabethton MEPS class had one final opportunity before school was over to see beyond the world behind that of a residential electrician when they visited the Elizabethton Electric System.
 
MEPS, which stands for Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing Systems was just started at Elizabethton High School this year and Lee Cole, the class teacher, felt it was important for his students to see how the power actually got to the house before coming into the house.
 
"We are dealing with everything that comes into the house, so I wanted them to see what is involved with getting it down to where we are at," said Cole. "What we are learning in class now is how power is distributed down to each house. For me, it is very important for them to see how it works, how it is brought in, and how it travels down the roads."
 
Cole admits that its his desire to see students understand that they can graduate high school into higher paying jobs which will allow them to stay at home in the county with their families.
 
"Students are freshmen to seniors," said Cole. "We do dual enrollment at TCAT with our program. They earn OSHA 10 in construction and when they move into MEPS 3, they will be able to take OSHA 30. They can come out of here and have pretty much a degree from TCAT and have hands-on training and with the right contacts be able to work right into a good job."
 
Students were given a tour of the Electric System's warehouse where they actually could view transformers up close as well as seeing the different types and sizes of wire utilized by the Utility.
 
Also, a miniature house was set on fire in a simulation of what happens when a wire drops across a live wire during a storm. Students also were shown a demostration on how a drop-out fuse works and how lineman get power back on by snapping them back into place.
 
Elizabethton Electric General Manager Brandon Shell spoke to the students about the job of a lineman and how hard the work often is especially during times of storms that can wreck havoc on a system with downed trees and power lines.
 
However, Shell said that the pay was good and would allow the students to stay at home and raise their families in the same community the students were raised in.
 
"I love it," Shell said about having the students at the Electric System. "They are taking courses to be electricians and if they want to go from that and go into line work, if we can have any influence on that it would be awesome since they have grown up in this community.
 
"Their family and parents are vested here. If they get a job here on this line, it would be great going forward. I hope they know there is something else out there beside residential."
 
Shell said he hopes to continue to bring students from the MEPS class to the Electric Utility on Hatcher Lane.
 
All photos are by Ivan Sanders.

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