• Donna Bulger, NSRDEC associate director for operations and outreach, controls a robot built by Natick High School students as part of a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) project.

    Bulger controlling student-built robot

    Donna Bulger, NSRDEC associate director for operations and outreach, controls a robot built by Natick High School students as part of a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) project.

  • NSRDEC's Donna Bulger watches a demonstration of a robot built by Natick High School students participating in a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) project.

    student-built robot demonstration

    NSRDEC's Donna Bulger watches a demonstration of a robot built by Natick High School students participating in a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) project.

NATICK, Mass. (Sept. 9, 2013) -- U.S. Army Natick Soldier Systems Center recently participated in another successful year of integrating high school students into an internship exchange program.

During the past few months, several Natick High School seniors substituted 80 hours of unpaid volunteer work at the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center for their last term of academic classes.

The NSRDEC internship program started when Donna Bulger, National Defense Education Program outreach coordinator, partnered with NHS four years ago.

Bulger was originally approached by Doug Scott, a robotics teacher at NHS. He discussed the possibility of receiving funding for several projects he was conducting with students. Intrigued by his work, Bulger agreed. Since then the two have remained in frequent contact.

"It got to a point where I could go into the old high school and the robotics kids would say, 'Oh, you want Mr. Scott. Let me bring you to his room,'" Bulger said.

After being introduced to Scott, Bulger acquainted herself with many of the other teachers at the school. This included the career counselor overseeing the Natick High School internship Program, Lisa De Palo.

Adam Azanow, a student participant in the program, chose to intern in business process operations at NSRDEC. His goal was to gain a better understanding of business and finance, two topics that he plans to study at Massachusetts Maritime Academy next year.

"I really like the concept behind hands-on experiences and working in the real world, because you can only learn so much in the classroom," Azanow said.

Azanow was originally working on an engineering project with Doug Scott when he learned about the intern position.

Although Azanow's internship hours were spent on the installation, several students made the decision to intern with Doug Scott at the high school. They have been working on an MIT ice search and rescue robot project that Donna Bulger has provided funding for.

"Every time someone reports a hole in the ice, the fire department has to go investigate," Azanow said. "Towns don't have a lot of money to train scuba divers, and ice diving is very dangerous. The robots are used to search and locate if anything has gone through the ice without putting human life in danger. One robot drives across the ice and lowers the (remotely operated) vehicle."

The students received the grant for the project in September and have been working on the robots since May 2012. Azanow said that after his internship ends he plans to return to school to help his classmates complete the project.

Whether students are interning on the installation or at the high school, people on either side of the NHS internship program recognize the importance of NSRDEC's participation.

"I think it is a great opportunity for students to get a real application for whatever career field they are interested in," said Ginger Rettie of the Natick Soldier Systems Center Civilian Personnel Advisory Center. "Students are getting something that I think is priceless, because a lot of times with the types of projects managers are working on, it's more intensive and they have time to actually work with the students and show them a real-world application of what they are studying."

Bulger emphasized the importance of reaching out to children at a young age to keep this internship program alive.

"I think we are really beginning to see the value of giving high school students experiences that help them form good academic choices," Bulger said. "Then they can come back to see us for jobs later on. That's our ultimate goal."

Adrienne Gagne was a NHS intern who worked in the NSRDEC Public Affairs Office.

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NSRDEC is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to develop technology and engineering solutions for America's Soldiers.

RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command. AMC is the Army's premier provider of materiel readiness -- technology, acquisition support, materiel development, logistics power projection, and sustainment -- to the total force, across the spectrum of joint military operations. If a Soldier shoots it, drives it, flies it, wears it, eats it or communicates with it, AMC provides it.

Page last updated Wed September 18th, 2013 at 09:46