Meeting young people where they’re at with STEM-based curriculum.

Supporting and promoting the engineering and land survey fields is a key component of Alliant’s community involvement.

Keara Fehr demonstrating how to texture soil by hand.

In May, this focus brought several of our surveyors and engineers to Washburn High School in Minneapolis for a week of hands-on sessions highlighting land survey and environmental engineering careers.

As part of Alliant’s education-based community outreach program Trailblazers, team members Keara Fehr, Sarah Barnett, Keith Johnson, and Lukas Bergstrom developed a curriculum designed to meet students where they’re at while giving them a glimpse into a potential career path.

Environmental Studies

The beginning of the week focused on environmental engineering with Alliant Water Resources Engineer Sarah Barnett, PE, and Senior Environmental Specialist Keara Fehr. The sessions focused on providing students with an understanding of how soil texture data plays an essential role in the decisions made about the engineering design of roadways, structures, and drainage features. Sarah and Keara highlighted a method for determining soil type in the field and invited students to try examine a variety of soil samples themselves. This hands-on activity showed students how soil types operate differently from one another due to different porosity and permeability.

“At first not everyone wanted to get their hands dirty, but eventually they all got into the activity and were asking great questions. When we did a test at the end of class, I’m pretty sure everyone got the textures of the soil correct.” said Keara.

Offering students a hands-on experience was meaningful for everyone. “Trailblazers is an awesome way to provide real value to kids in our community. I loved being able to provide a fun learning experience for students. They now hopefully think of engineering as a cool job!” added Sarah.

The two also explained how these real-world experiments apply to the work they do at Alliant every day. Keara’s field experience combined with Sarah’s drainage systems design expertise gave the students a well-rounded understanding of how field data is used in engineering designs.

Sarah Barnett explaining the soil classification chart

A student collecting soil to test








Land Surveyors in Training

With two days of soil science complete, Survey Field Technician, Lukas Bergstrom, and Senior Survey Crew Chief, Keith Johnson began their session on Land Surveying. The different types of survey, elevations, coordinates, and reading levels were just some of the points presented to students before heading outside to survey the school grounds.

Keith and Lukas split the students into groups and provided expertise and advice as the class ran their level loops through benchmarks around the school. The main challenge for the students was making sure their collected measurements achieved the right elevations. Back in the classroom, Keith checked all the math to confirm the results of their first efforts.

“We heard one student say that it was the most fun they’d had at school. We told them we would have a job waiting for them when they graduate!” Keith exclaimed, “It was a great experience and was cool to get to showcase why surveying is a great career.”

survey total station

Keith double-checking calculations

Students using the total station to check elevations - Land surveying

One group using the total station








Bright Futures 

Close up of survey equipment

Close up of survey equipment

As we continue to grow partnerships with schools and youth programs, we strive to help students feel confident in trying new things, and give them the belief that a career in the STEM field is not just possible for them, but an exciting prospect.


“Alliant brought an incredibly authentic experience to my students. In my entire career as a teacher, nothing resonates with students more than authenticity, especially in a career-related subject. Alliant was able to engage with students and bring something different to the classroom and for that, I am grateful and hope to continue to work with Alliant to provide future students the same opportunity.”

– Educator Martin Lohman, Washburn High School.


If your school is interested in partnering with Alliant’s Trailblazers program please contact Beth Winter.

Students working together to check surveying coordinates

Students working together using survey tools