Several officials from the REX project had a lunch meeting with industrial technology students from both Greencastle High School and Area 30 at the Walden Inn. A number of community leaders were also in attendance.
But the true focus of the day was the kids. Following lunch and talks from REX Public Affairs Manager Allen Fore and Environmental trainer Ryan Wilson, the classes took a trip to a job site in the northwestern part of the county to see the work in person.
The classes involved were Greencastle's introduction to building trades class and Area 30's heavy equipment course. Both instructors agreed that the hour at the pipeline site could teach their students so much more than classroom experience.
"We've just finished up nine weeks of welding, and the pipeline called and asked if we'd be interested in coming up and seeing their operation and their welding techniques," said GHS teacher Maurice McKee. "It's an excellent opportunity for the kids that they would never see any other time."
While the focus of his course is different, Area 30 heavy equipment instructor Scott Livesay concurred with McKee's sentiments about the chance to experience the work in person.
"This is basically all done with heavy equipment, and the basis of our classroom is teaching the operation of heavy equipment," Livesay said. "We've actually driven by the sites and stopped on the county roads and looked at what they are doing to get an idea of how they are boring underneath the roads. But the real opportunity is getting to see it first hand."
Perhaps lost on the students was the timing of the project. They have taken the right class at the right place and time to get to see this work up close. This tour couldn't have happened last year and will not be available to students next year.
"It really is a unique opportunity to see one of the most significant pipelines in North America passing right here through Putnam County," Fore said.
And they will learn much more than they would have otherwise.
"It's going to be a lot more information for them because they don't have to try and read it out of a book. They're seeing some hands-on experience, and kids love that part. They love seeing something real instead of it being talked about all the time," McKee said.
Before embarking on their trip, though, the students had to be briefed on what they would be seeing and what would be expected of them once on site.
Fore spoke to the students briefly about the history of the 1,678-mile natural gas pipeline that runs from Rio Blanco County, Colo. to Monroe County, Ohio. He also spoke of the need for workers on this project and others of its kind.
"One thing they need are construction workers on this project, particularly welders," Fore said.
Wilson's talk focused on safety and environmental issues the students would need to be mindful of when they were on site. Essentially, they received a half-hour crash course in what might otherwise be a daylong new hire orientation.
Wilson said the biggest hindrances to safety on any job site are people's concerns with their own time and safety. But when safety is at stake, other concerns can take a back seat.
"Sacrifice a little bit of your time; sacrifice a little bit of your comfort to do things the right way," Wilson said.
On that note, the students were required to wear hard hats, safety glasses and reflective vests while they were in the work zone.
Anyone wanting more information on the REX project can find it at www.rexpipeline.com