National Engineers Week: Highlighting engineers’ contributions from cooperative to classroom


Sara Dow, left, spends time with a student discussing the various disciplines of engineering. This student is interested in electrical engineering.

It is National Engineers Week. Engineers are an instrumental part of Basin Electric’s mission to make and send safe, reliable, and affordable power to our member co-ops.

We want to highlight one example of how three Great Plains Synfuels Plant engineers’ contributions are making a difference beyond the cooperative.

Sara Dow, Dakota Gas mechanical engineer, John Gusewelle, Dakota Gas fixed equipment engineer, and Nigel Schmitz, Dakota Gas process engineer, recently took their knowledge to Hazen (ND) Middle School to help students with a special project.

Hazen Middle School Teacher Lisa Gusewelle invited the engineers to come into her eighth grade classroom to provide feedback and suggestions to improve a product the students had engineered. The nearly 40 eighth grade students were tasked with creating a product that could solve a problem dealing with space debris.

The students broke into groups and presented their product design to the engineers. The engineers examined the product and asked questions before providing feedback including design changes and improvements.


Nigel Schmitz and John Gusewelle listen to the students’ essay and product design, offering suggestions for improvement.

“It was great to see the students using critical thinking skills and interesting to hear them talk about their argumentative essays they wrote to go along with their product,” Dow said. “The prototypes were impressive.”

Dow, Gusewelle, and Schmitz also participated in a mini career fair sharing their educational background and job duties associated with their current positions at the Synfuels Plant.

“We were surprised how many students said they were interested in going into engineering,” Dow said. “It was encouraging. The students had many good questions about engineering careers.”

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