Dakota Gas employee implements virtual solution to canceled tours

Usually when warm weather starts to roll around, Basin Electric’s facilities are buzzing with people taking tours. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 tours were suspended through the summer, so Amy Garman, Dakota Gas laboratory superintendent at the Great Plains Synfuels Plant, found a way to improvise.

Garman was corresponding with an advanced placement science teacher in Beulah, North Dakota, who normally brings her class to visit the chemistry lab, and it gave her an idea.

“I reached out to the teacher and asked if she would be interested in us recording a virtual tour of the lab, and she was really excited,” Garman says. “Every year, she brings the kids to see science put to use in the real world so it’s one way we can make sure they don’t miss out.”

One unexpected positive of the virtual tour is that students are able to get a closer look at the lab instruments in action.

“Normally we schedule tours during a slower time of day so the students don’t usually get the chance to see the instruments in use. The chemists substituted being in-person for demonstrations,” Garman says. “For example, one demonstration shows how gases differ. Helium has a much lower density than krypton/xenon (one of the products Dakota Gas sells). When inhaled, helium makes your voice higher but krypton/xenon makes your voice deeper.

Garman explains that Basin Electric and Dakota Gas have always been involved locally with education, whether it’s plant tours, job shadowing, or student internships. This solution was one way to make sure that students aren’t missing out on opportunities to learn.

“The virtual tour gave the students a look at our actual day-to-day responsibilities and showed them what the chemists at Dakota Gas really do. The daily work probably isn’t as fun to watch as the demonstrations, but it shows what a diverse lab accomplishes in a given day,” Garman says.

DGC lab tour

Students were sent a link to the video tour so that they could watch from home.

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