Amanda Currie has a fascination with STEM.

That stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.

So when she first started her summer internship with the City of Garden City water department, she was most excited to learn about the science side of it. But after being exposed to the department as a whole, she learned there is a lot more to it than one would think.

“As I got here, and I was more exposed to all of the problems and issues they (the department) face, my interest increased just by exposure,” Currie said. “f you’re thinking about doing this next year and don’t think you’ll be interested in water, you may be once you get here and discover everything that’s happening. It’s more complex than most people think.”

The Garden City High School senior-to-be is taking a nine-week internship, which is funded by an Environmental Protection Agency grant awarded to the Environmental Finance Center at Wichita State University Hugo Wall School of Public Affairs, which is a part of a larger education effort titled, “Work in Water.”

Fred Jones, water resource manager for the city, said it’s a program to expand awareness of careers in the water industry.

As part of the internship, Currie will have to compile her experiences into a capstone project that can be shared by the utility or with other students.

“I’ve been shadowing a lot of people, really trying to understand the whole process of running a water department,” she said.

So far in her internship, Currie has visited the city’s wastewater treatment plant’s chemistry lab, where she’s seen some of the processes for water treatments. She has also shadowed the city’s water specialty groups and  people in the department who do trouble calls and read meters.

“It’s really interesting. I hadn’t considered a career in utilities before, or in the water field and it really allows me to expand my future. I have a better idea of what I could be doing after school,” she said. “I think it leaves a really good base work for the future and a better way of understanding how science helps municipalities and people in their everyday life.”

Currie has a newfound appreciation for the quality control at every level of the process.

“They have so many checks at every level, and they are so careful at making sure everything is running properly,” she said. That’s been really fascinating.”

Jones said it's been a joy to have Currie on board for the summer.

“This is a new experience for us. It kind of gives us a different perspective of what we do,” he said, adding that it has also helped the department improve professionally as a group. “It’s been good for all of us, and we’ve been fortunate to have a lot of projects going on, so she gets to see a good variety of things.”

Jones said one of the projects Currie was exposed to was the installation of the city’s SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) system.

“That’s the system — the brains — that controls when the wells turn on. It monitors the pressure in the system, and it lets us know what’s going on,” Jones said.

Currie, who is on the GCHS debate team and a member of National Honor Society, said she likely will attend Kansas State University, but still is undecided. She knows her major will be something in the STEM field, but also is undecided what exactly that will be.

Contact Josh Harbour at jharbour@gctelegram.com