Acquaintances often think Kate Hayes forecasts the weather.
Rather, the career metrologist (a job title missing the “eo” for studying weather) practices the science of measurement. Her job is to make measured exchanges in commerce as precise and equal as possible.
Hayes and fellow Tennessee state metrologists Ken Wilmoth and Nick Andersen work to ensure the checkout scale at the grocery store accurately weighs apples, bananas and other commodities.
And now, Tennessee’s brand-new metrology lab at the Ellington Agricultural Center gives the state’s metrologists the tools, resources and state-of-the-art facility to attain near perfection in weights and measures, and soon, the highest national accreditation bestowed upon metrology labs.
“This is not your run-of-the-mill building,” says Randy Jennings, operations director for Consumer and Industry Services at the Tennessee Department of Agriculture. “It’s not even your average laboratory.”
The new lab is considered a national model among metrology laboratories. Equipment includes top-of-the-line balances with minimal drift. Ceilings are perforated to restrict air movement. Even the lights are installed in a way to prevent the slightest distribution of heat that could impact accuracy.
This new laboratory brings Tennessee to fully recognized status with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Within three years, the metrology team plans to reach NIST’s Echelon I status, which means the lab maintains the trained staffing, equipment and demonstrated skill to attain the highest level of accuracy.
As a result, the lab will gain new customers who had to search outside of Tennessee for services in the past. The new lab also brings new services, such as the ability to determine precise moisture content of grain and the means to calibrate heavy equipment scales for quarries and livestock.