Expo Engineers Excitement for STEM

A 51-year tradition returned to its hands-on experience at the University of South Florida Tampa campus this year. And as the main corporate sponsor, Tampa Electric and Peoples Gas team members eagerly participated in the USF Engineering Expo for students of all ages at the College of Engineering.

Tampa Electric’s longtime participation in the annual event included interactive displays showcasing energy-efficient technologies, games that teach children how the company generates electricity, tools line workers use to safely and reliably serve the community and more. The annual event is free and open to the community to promote STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) among current and future engineers, scientists and students.

At the USF Engineering Expo, students learned how pedal power can generate electricity
to illuminate light bulbs.

Fondly referred to as the “fishbowl,” the circular atrium at the College of Engineering drew a packed house on Feb. 10 and 11. The crowd included students of all ages and TECO team members – many returning to their alma mater to share their expertise.

For instance, 23 out of the 30 years Transmission Engineer Minh Ly has been with Tampa Electric has been spent participating at this event. “I really enjoy the fact that these students are willing to learn,” said Minh. “It gives them the opportunity to see what we do in the real world. Hopefully, we encourage more students to be in the engineering field.”

Minh and his group hosted a TECO-branded stationary bicycle that kids pedaled to generate power for light bulbs. “We are showing them how energy is produced behind the scenes,” explained Minh. “We talk about how much work it takes to power a LED light versus a regular incandescent light bulb.” 

A thermal imaging camera (L) and drone (R) both were popular attractions to expo attendees.

Senior Transmission Operations Engineer Jaclyn Meddleton and her colleagues enjoyed showing off a thermal imaging camera. “We use infrared to safely inspect our power lines to detect anomalies such as hot spots where they would show signs of potential failure at high voltage connections,” said Jaclyn. “The camera allows us to detect the failure area for repair and maintenance.”

After receiving both a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and master’s degree in engineering management from USF, Jaclyn got nostalgic at the expo. “I miss being here and it’s exciting to see the younger kids interested and involved in what we’re doing.”

Our company drones proved to be another popular attraction for curious young minds. Senior Engineer Phillip Marshall explained how the tools have been quite the game-changer for our industry – saving time, money and resources. “We use the drones to inspect power lines, bird nests, solar sites and other company assets safely from a distance,” said Phillip while scrolling through an iPad full of eagle eye pictures and video the drone’s able to pick up to help field crews. “During Hurricane Ian, we used this drone to assess the damage. We were able to send the right response – and the right amount of response – to the right place.” 

With the help of a crowd popular Tesla, Substation Engineering’s Mike Walrath (L) and Sadrac Blanc (R)
explained the benefits of electric vehicles to USF Engineering Expo visitors on Friday, Feb 10.

Outside, Tampa Electric team members scored cool points with a shiny new Tesla on display. Classmates and families got to peek under the hood while our team members used electric vehicles as a springboard to discuss the company’s clean energy future.

Still, the Tesla didn’t steal any attention away from the lineworkers and bucket trucks outside. They drew quite the crowd with various hands-on, show-and-tell activities to show how we maintain 99.98 percent service reliability.

Team members demonstrated tools line workers use to safely restore power and maintain reliability.

“I had the opportunity to talk to different individuals. I always tell them to keep their options open because this is something that I never thought about before, and I fell into a career that I love. And it’s progressed into where I can take care of my family and possibly retire,” shared Geoffrey Martin, Solar Operations Technician III. “I love to see their eyes open up. For young people to come out and realize a company like TECO can be an opportunity when they thought it couldn’t - it’s always a breakthrough moment for me.”

That was a common theme throughout the two-day experience. It appeared the smiles and sounds of excitement at the expo belonged to TECO team members as much as the students.