SHERRILLS FORD – Fourteen high school students from Catawba County and Lincoln County Schools visited Duke Energy’s Marshall Steam Station on Wednesday, as part of a one-week, engineering internship program.

Launched in 2001, the M.L. Butler Science, Energy, Engineering, Environmental and Computer (SEEEC) Careers Summer Internship is a work-based learning program giving rising high school juniors and seniors the opportunity to spend five weekdays touring around the steam plant, as well as getting hand-on learning experiences from current Duke Energy engineers.

The late Mike Butler, a former Duke Energy employee, founded the internship program to give local high school students some exposure to the industry. Following Butler's death in 2008, Bob Drum took control of the program and the company went on to rename the internship to honor Butler’s legacy.

Duke Energy Government and Community Relations Manager Lisa Parrish said it was important to get the students interested in the engineering field at an early age, especially considering the “graying workforce” among current engineers at Duke Energy.

“We really enjoy reaching out to high school kids who are passionate about engineering,” Parrish said. “We need these young people on board… They are going to be our future.”

The students participating in the internship program all had their own set of motives and attitudes regarding the engineering field.

Challenger Early College High School student Heaven Davis, for example, came into the program not knowing what she wanted to do for a living. But because she enjoys her math and science classes, she said she decided to give the program a shot.

Bandys High School student Taylor Goforth came in the program knowing she wanted to pursue a career in architectural engineering.

“I (chose) this program because I was interested in getting some internship experiences,” Goforth said.

Bunker Hill High School student Ben Auten, who was the star of one of Wednesday’s workshops by being the first among his internship group to finish building a simple motor system, said he is interested in learning about civil and mechanical engineering.

Drum said regardless of what the students’ attitude toward engineering may be at the end of the program, they will at least be able to move forward with a better sense of what they would want to do as they get older.

“If they end up not liking engineering, at least they’ll at least know which (field) to not pursue,” Drum said.

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