Co-op student adds to summer youth program
August 11, 2008
An annual summer youth educational program sponsored by the employees of the Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center needed fresh ideas and someone to step up. A fellow student did just that for the Gains in the Education of Mathematics and Science Program.
GEMS is part of the Army Educational Outreach Program which consists of Army-sponsored research, education, competitions, internships and practical experiences designed to engage and guide students and teachers.
Dr. Steven Smith, director of special projects at the AMRDEC, who has been working the GEMS program for four years, was looking for additional topics for this year's GEMS classes and found them after a discussion with an AMRDEC Co-op student.
"Noting a conversation that I had with John Price about the need for additional projects for this year's GEMS students, Jessica offered several excellent suggestions on how to strengthen the proposed 2008 GEMS curriculum," Smith said.
Jessica Mintz, a Co-op student from the University of Alabama, studying electrical and computer engineering and working this summer in the Embedded Processors Group, Electronics and Computer Technology Division, Weapons Development and Integration Directorate, was involved from the start of the planning process and helping where she could.
"Originally, John was working closest with the GEMS program," Mintz said. "He built a computer for under $100 and Hana Nasr was the near-peer mentor who would do the activity with the GEMS students. I attended the initial meeting with John, Dr. Smith, and the near-peer mentors to offer advice and answer any questions for the GEMS group."
The group soon realized they needed to add modules to the schedule to provide the GEMS students with a challenging program and maximize their time. Mintz was soon to discover that her involvement in the GEMS program would entail much more than planning.
"After it became clear that building the computers would not take all the time allotted for the week, Dr. Smith asked that John and I come up with additional activities for the students," Mintz said. "Dr. Smith made the comment that I would take the teaching role and Hana would take on the administrative and support role for the overall group."
Mintz's spirit and willingness to help were well accepted.
"I was pleased to have Jessica take an interest in this valuable outreach program for youth, and I was most impressed and appreciative when she volunteered to serve as both instructor and mentor," Smith said.
The module Mintz developed was comprehensive and her performance as an instructor helped motivate her students to do their best.
"The resulting module concentrated on electrical and computer engineering," Mintz said. "The GEMS students built the computer; wrote a handful of small programs in the high-level language C++; assembled and soldered a robotic mouse allowing them to learn about soldering safety, electrical components, and circuits; and built web sites." Based on student feedback, it is clear that Mintz proved herself as a GEMS instructor and mentor, supported AMRDEC, and provided her students with a challenging educational experience.
"Jessica played an extremely vital role in this year's GEMS program, and I received very positive feedback from all of the students," Smith said. "Jessica was able to challenge and encourage the GEMS participants, which is so important in a one-week program teeming with young teens. She certainly has a bright future."
As her time as a GEMS instructor ended, it was difficult to say who benefitted more this summer -- the students or Mintz.
"I had an awesome and rewarding experience working with GEMS," Mintz said. "The summer before my senior year of high school I had attended a similar engineering camp at UA and it was one of the best times of my life. Since then, I have hoped to be a counselor for that program because I am a big advocate for engineering and love helping anyone wondering if the field is right for them."