AEC Soldiers engage middle school students
April 3, 2013
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. -- Sgts. 1st Class Vernon Walton and Milvia Kendrick represented the Army's interest in cultivating Science, Technology, Engineering and Math professionals at Career Blast 2013 at Cecil College March 20.
Cecil College hosted more than 150 middle school students from Cecil County to highlight more than 30 industry and career fields including STEM disciplines. Walton and Kendrick, military evaluators with the Command and Control Directorate, Army Evaluation Center, were chosen by AEC to continue APG's efforts to promote STEM professions.
As AEC subject matter experts for the test and evaluation of Soldier equipment, Walton and Kendrick held discussions with students and demonstrated the Army's premier baseline radio for combat during the event. Their military occupational specialties support STEM efforts as they give the Army feedback on Soldier use of networks and mission command communications on the battlefield.
Students learned how to use Army "lingo" while transmitting over the Department of Defense's most versatile radio: the Single Channel Ground to Airborne System. The DoD has been using SINCGARS since 1988. Initially it was used for non-secure communications; now, SINCGARS is used for secure communications by Soldiers in combat.
Students also created communication between walls and were given messages to send in Army code such as alpha for A, bravo for B, and zulu for Z. The code was then received and deciphered by an opposing team. Each team demonstrated three roles: the speaker, the listener, and the translator. Kendrick relayed to students that Army code used to secure communication is similar to teenagers today using texting phrases like LOL, LMAO, and IDK. Students were shown how to reconcile frequencies, operate the handset, and discussed the importance of speaking clearly.
At the end of the demonstration, Walton opened the floor for questions. Students posed questions like how weapons differ between Services; whether Soldiers memorize codes and do Soldiers use the code off duty; and body armor protection.
The Career Blast helped students better understand the complexities of working with technology and cryptologic protocols, which are critical in STEM fields. Experts like Freeman A. Hrabowski, III, president of the University of Maryland Baltimore County, have recently commented the U.S. is in need of engineers, scientists, and mathematicians.
"I realized too few are training in the sciences, engineering, math and technologies," said Hrabowski in a speech supporting Black History Month at APG in February. Baby boomers are retiring and not enough young scientists and engineers are coming up in the ranks, he commented. "We need people who can think well, who know the importance of discipline and hard work."
While the Army and APG have supported STEM outreach for decades, last year President Barack Obama challenged personnel working in STEM fields to promote creative ways to engage young people in STEM programs during remarks at the National Academy of Sciences Annual Meeting.