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    Friday, July 19, 2024

    NL students get a behind-the-scenes look at State Pier wind power work

    Students from New London High School Multi-Magnet School follow Ulysses Hammond, interim executive director of the Connecticut Port Authority, while taking a tour of the work being done to build wind turbines at State Pier in New London. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Matthew Atkinson, commissioning supervisor for Orsted, front left, talks to students from New London High School Multi-Magnet School on Wednesday, Dec 20, 2023, about the work taking place to build wind turbines during a tour of State Pier in New London. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Ulysses Hammond, interim executive director of the Connecticut Port Authority, stands in front of a row of hubs for the blades of wind turbines Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2023, while talking to students from New London High School Multi-Magnet School about the work taking place to build the turbines during a tour of State Pier in New London. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Matthew Atkinson, commissioning supervisor for Orsted, right, talks to students from New London High School Multi-Magnet School, Wednesday, Dec 20, 2023, about the work taking place to build wind turbines during a tour of State Pier in New London. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    New London ― A group of 10 burgeoning engineers from the city’s high school spent part of their Wednesday morning in an outdoor classroom that featured towering wind turbine components, a massive off-loading barge and the kinds of activity expected at a major manufacturing site.

    “It’s the scale,” Masyn Smith, a 17-year-old senior attending the New London High School Multi-Magnet School, said while gazing up at a stack of wind turbine sections at the edge of State Pier. “I had no idea those pillars were this big.”

    The students toured the turbine pre-assembly site in the company of several chaperones from the campus’ college career and workforce readiness program, which aids students in exploring post-high-school careers.

    “This is a chance for the kids to actually see the work being done right in their backyard,” said course leader member Dale Clark. “There’re students here interested in robotics, computer engineering and mechanical engineering. It’s a chance for us to show students who might not see the value of staying in school why it’s important to at least get a diploma so they can get jobs in these fields.”

    Ahead of the tour, the students got an overview of the ongoing work by Ulysses Hammond, interim executive director of the Connecticut Port Authority, which oversees State Pier.

    Hammond walked students through the $309 million transformation of the site from a pair of finger piers into a heavy-lift cargo port currently tasked with assembling sections of wind turbines ahead of their delivery to the South Fork Wind project located 35 miles east of Montauk Point.

    “We are bringing a new industry to America and it’s happening right here in New London,” Hammond said, rattling off the length of each turbine blade (330 feet), the weight of the nacelle generators (520 metric tons) and the height of the finished towers (more than 800 feet).

    As they walked past an onloading ship and a row of stacked blades – the fifth of 12 such sets set to be delivered to the South Fork project – students looked up toward the sets of cranes responsible for shifting the wind components around the pier.

    “There’s so much work involved in all this,” said Sergio Garcia, a 17-year-old senior considering a career in mechanical engineering. “It makes me wonder about the math and science behind all this. The magnitude of this – you can’t compare being here to just hearing about it in a class.”

    Taking advantage of “backyard’ projects

    The State Pier visit was just one of several on-the-job field trips planned by local schools taking advantage of major construction projects in their backyards. New London officials plan to take students to Fort Trumbull where a new $40 million community center is under construction.

    “Once the (foundation) slabs are in we hope to get kids out there in the spring,” said Felix Reyes, director of the city’s Office of Planning and Development.

    City Councilor Akil Peck said the center project offers a once-in-a-generation opportunity for students interested in the building trades.

    “It opens up possibilities and shows them that a career in those fields isn’t far-fetched or out of reach,” he said. “We’ve got companies like Electric Boat begging to fill spots and a police department that’s having a hard time hiring. There are opportunities beyond college out there.”

    Last month, more than a dozen East Lyme High School students donned hardhats to tour an Interstate 95 blasting site where crews are working on a $148 million highway reconstruction project.

    For New London sophomore Galileo Thompson, the State Pier tour offered a new perspective on the kinds of work he’d like to tackle as an aerospace engineer.

    “It’s so different than just seeing pictures or hearing someone talk about it,” he said. ‘It’s a great vision of human innovation.”

    j.penney@theday.com

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