By Cassie McClure and Suzanne Michaels
Published in the Las Cruces Sun-News 3/8/20
The fourth graders from Ken Strawn’s social studies class at Hillrise Elementary were jumping up and down in front of the Las Cruces Utilities (LCU) truck. Partly it was the chill of the morning, partly the release of pent up energy, but there was also just simple excitement to see what they’ve only heard about - a little robotic sewer truck fitted with a camera that travels our sewers “seeing” any little problems, before they become big.
Operators Lonnie Orona and Carlos Almaraz, both LCU wastewater collection inspectors, brought the truck to Hillrise Elementary and set up out front with an extra pipe to let the little sewer truck have a go at above-ground action with an audience of children watching. Inside the pipe there was even a little friend, a plastic rat resembling what the little truck might actually encounter in an underground pipe.
This field trip came at the request of Hillrise Elementary. During last year’s naming opportunity, David Uribe’s bilingual class submitted the winning moniker “Aguacito” for LCU’s Water Conservation Program mascot located at the entrance to the West Mesa Industrial Park. Now it’s time for the little sewer truck to be named.
Back in the classroom, Mr. Strawn asks his students what surprised them the most about seeing the little truck in action. He began the conversation, saying he imagined the truck as much larger. The students said they thought the truck would travel faster; they pictured it racing through the sewers and didn’t realize it was attached to a cable. A few of them marveled at the price tag on the small truck: roughly $100,000.
“It’s an important job,” explained Mr. Strawn. “Remember the article we read about India and its problem with sewage getting blocked and running in the streets? Do we see that here in Las Cruces?”
“No!” is the agreed chorus from the students. Mr. Strawn mentions that the teachers at Hillrise integrated the sewer truck into lesson plans spanning from social studies to science.
Names were due by March 1st; 12 entries were received from Las Cruces schools. The winning name will be selected by the LCU Board of Commissioners at the April 9, 2020, meeting and the winning elementary class will receive a congratulatory pizza party.
You can reach Las Cruces Utilities at 528-3500 from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Las Cruces Utilities provides GAS – WATER – WASTEWATER – SOLID WASTE services to approximately 100,000 Las Cruces residents and businesses.
PHOTO 1: Hillrise Elementary teacher Ken Strawn’s class meets the LCU robotic sewer truck and see it in action in an above-ground demonstration.