Juan Suarez, an engineer with Dow Chemical in Louisiana, spoke to students in the Young Engineers program at Albert Leonard Middle School today. Suarez, who grew up in New Rochelle and graduated from Iona Prep, is a mechanical engineer who designs and maintains equipment at the Dow plant in Saint Charles parish outside of New Orleans.
Suarez reviewed the many kinds of equipment like complex pumps and turbines used at the Dow plant to mix chemical compounds, generate power and filter water and how engineers have design, monitor and maintain the equipment to keep in functioning and safe. The class discussed safety issues related to mixing chemicals and generating power under high pressure which led into a discussion of what went wrong at the BP Deepwater Horizon oil drilling platform and the ensuing disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
As Suarez explained the various failed attempts to cap the well to stop the oil from flowing he produced a sample of oil from the BP spill that had washed up on the beach in Mississippi and mixed with sand on the beach. Students passed around the oil and sand compound, sealed in plastic for safety reasons; the compound was soft to the touch.