Trading Books, Highlighters for Hardhats, Safety Glasses

NET graduate and current CENG employee Tara Wille

CSM Nuclear Engineering Technology Students go ‘Hands-on’ at Power Plant

After months of classroom lectures and book work, College of Southern Maryland (CSM) Nuclear Engineering Technology (NET) students had an opportunity to put down their textbooks and highlighters and don hardhats, safety glasses, ear protection and gloves as they completed summer internships at Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant in Lusby.

“This experience is beyond my expectations. To come to the plant and see the practical use of what we have been learning in class is incredible,” said Teague Gibson, of Nanjemoy, who was spending time in the North Service Area machine shop observing employees overhaul a motorized valve. Always mechanically inclined, Gibson said that he left legal office work to pursue a technical career.

Over the six-week summer cooperative education/internship program, students toured the Constellation Energy Nuclear Group (CENG) Calvert Cliffs facility, attended lectures and courses led by CENG instructors, and rotated through electrical and mechanical maintenance, instrumentation and control, and chemistry and radiation protection systems to get a flavor of the work conducted in those shops.

Tara Wille, a CSM alumna of the NET program and CENG employee, points to the experiences she had during her own internship as confirmation she made the right career choice. Interns learn that the plant elevators give depths below ground, from 12 feet to 47 feet, instead of floor numbers, that temperatures in the Turbine Building can reach 120 degrees and that cleaning the cooling water intake area can reek from trapped Chesapeake Bay flotsam and jetsam. Wille wasn’t deterred and now she shares her knowledge with current interns such as Jamie Yost, of Lusby, and Chad Delahay, of Loveville.

Yost learned about the NET program from his Calvert Career Center teacher DeWeese Butler, a CSM adjunct faculty who teaches NET 2020. Yost also heard about the program from his older brother Jack who graduated from CSM in May 2013 with an associate’s degree in Nuclear Engineering Technology: Instrumentation and Control, and is now working for CENG.

CSM's two-year NET program is affiliated with the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) and CSM students who complete the program receive an associate’s degree in nuclear engineering technology with a concentration in instrumentation and control, electrical or mechanical. Graduates also receive a certificate of completion signed by the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO), National Academy for Nuclear Training and CENG which is accepted at all nuclear power plants throughout the U.S.

 “[National recognition] is a big plus. I’d like to stay here in Southern Maryland, but it is good to know that I qualify for positions at power plants around the country,” said Jason Wagner, of Owings.

Another plus is that graduates of programs such as CSM’s NET program are completing the two-year in-house qualification training substantially faster than other employees, according to Dave Schrumpf, CENG general supervisor of instrumentation maintenance. CENG has indicated that new employees who have not completed a program, such as this one, would have to go through two years of internal training before reaching the same competency level as CSM graduating students.

“The biggest benefit of the internship program [to CENG] is that we have an opportunity to see students’ work ethic and how they interact with other people. We get to see up-front what kind of workers they can be,” Schrumpf said, adding that he has been impressed by the caliber of the students from CSM.

In addition to paid internships, students who qualify for the NET program receive scholarships through CSM’s Nuclear Education Scholarship Program which received $150,000 as part of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's FY13 Nuclear Education Program. CSM's NET program is one of only 36 higher education institutions located in 24 states to be awarded the grant. In partnership with CENG and through its donations of more than $300,000, CSM developed the NET associate’s degree programs, a welding lab at CSM’s Center for Trades and Energy Training in Waldorf, a cooperative education program for students in the NET program and student scholarships.

            This fall, sophomore NET students will stow their hardhats and goggles as they return to class in CSM’s newest facility, Prince Frederick Campus Building B which houses the NET lab with equipment similar to what the interns saw at Calvert Cliffs over the summer. 

To see a video of 2012 CSM NET alumna Michelle Quan, visit


CSM Prince Frederick Campus Building B Dedication.  2 p.m., Sept. 10. College of Southern Maryland, Prince Frederick Campus, Building B, Multipurpose Room, 115 J. W. Williams Road, Prince Frederick. The College of Southern Maryland will dedicate its Building B at the Prince Frederick Campus with a ceremony, reception and self-guided tours. Building B adds nearly 30,000 square feet of classroom, meeting and computer lab space as well as 3,000 square feet of space dedicated to the Center for Nuclear Energy Training and a 3,000-square-foot flexible multipurpose space. Free.