TANEYTOWN -- Christy Russ could be the first person in her family to become an engineer.
But first she wanted to know what an engineer does all day, so she and 11 classmates from South Carroll and Westminster high schools spent most of last week at Dresser Pump in Taneytown.
"I prefer the computer work over the shop aspect," Russ decided. She liked designing a part for a pump but, "I'm not real interested in putting pumps together."
"You just don't like to get dirty," chided classmate Lisa Peltier, daughter of Viki and Gary Peltier of Sykesville.
"I'm thinking about engineering," said Russ, daughter of Tom and Denise Russ of New Windsor. "I thought if I went to this thing, I'd know more about what an engineer does."
"It's a really broad field," Peltier said.
The students volunteered, even though they won't be getting any grades or credit. They donned safety glasses and spent three days with the people who make their living designing and manufacturing irrigation pumps and pumps for municipal water and sewer systems.
The partnership started three years ago, when the schools' science research classes had a grant to send a few students to the plant. But when the grant dried up after that first year, the program stopped.
Mary Yohe, human resources manager at Dresser, said the plant and its parent corporation in Dallas supported continuing the visits.
"So, I wrote to the schools and said we'd like to do it, and if you're not going to be able to pay for it, we will," said Yohe, whose husband, Bradley, is supervisor of science for Carroll County schools.
Counting the time of the engineers and pay for teachers, the bill comes to about $10,000, said Ram Javia, the plant's engineering manager.
"It's an interesting experience they can take back to classes in September," Yohe said. "And it will possibly give them a spark to be an engineer."
Of the 12 students, seven are girls. The ratio is significantly higher than the 8 percent of working engineers who are women.
"When my mother was in school, I don't think they stressed that girls should get interested in science," Russ said. "Now, there's a push for us to take the higher-level science and math class.
"The only reason I became interested in science is school and Mr. Foor-Hogue," she said.
Robert Foor-Hogue, science teacher at South Carroll, also is Dresser's first recipient of a $250 cash award the plant will give a teacher each year.