ADELPHI, Md. - The Army Research Laboratory is scheduled to host the 48th National Junior Science and Humanities Symposium competition in Bethesda, Md., April 28 to May 2, bringing together 250 students from across the nation with nearly 100 showcasing research to vie for $144,000 in college scholarship money.

The JSHS is an Army-led, tri-service math, science and engineering scholarship competition for high school students who develop, execute and present their research project papers at 48 regional symposia throughout the year and hopefully entice them into become the nation's future scientists and engineers.

"The intention is to excite them about science and technology - give them awareness - and educate them," said Ashley Wade, Youth Science Program manager for ARL's Army Research Office and event organizer. "Students present their research on a wide variety of subjects and are judged on their presentation and quality of science."

Competition is stiff, said Wade, and students can work on their own or with a mentor. The regional competition is usually judged at a local university, which is given a small grant from the Army for helping.

"We look to the universities because they have outreach and also want to improve science education," said Wade.

The top three students at the regional levels were awarded $1500, $1,000 and $500 scholarships and given an all-expenses trip to the national competition along with two more students who stood out in the competition, but only the top two will compete at the top level.

"It's an honor for a student to compete at the regional level even if they don't go on to the nationals," said Wade.

The 96 students in Bethesda will compete in six categories: environmental sciences/earth and space, life sciences, medicine and health/behavioral sciences, engineering, mathematics and computer science, and physical sciences.

First through third place winners in each of the six categories will take home $16,000, $6,000 and $2,000 in college scholarships.

Some of the students presenting may get more than the scholarship money. One of last year's mathematics and computer science winners was given a NASA internship even before he started college, said Wade.

The student worked to develop a program that would allow computers to identify items in an image. His program understood how to see a building and other structures with more than 90 percent accuracy, said Wade.

The research project may find unauthorized drilling in the oceans, something that before took huge amounts of data and manpower manually looking over images.

"The research is very advanced for high school students," said Wade. "I would consider it university level."

The JSHS has a long history of flushing out talented math and science students. It began as a local program at the Office of Ordnance Research, which is now the Army Research Office, in the 1950s after Russia successfully launched Sputnik, spurring an awareness of the importance of scientific innovation.

Since then, the program has grown into a national tri-service scholarship program with the Navy and Air Force because they also have an interest in fostering science and math along with educating the students about the basic and applied research the military does.

Scientists are the backbone of military advancements, and even if students decide not to work in a service laboratory such as ARL, they still may find themselves contributing, said Wade.

"It's important for students to understand the military's research even if they don't work here," she said. "(ARL) alone has over (1,500) research grants nationwide, which means they could still apply for research for the Army even if they're at their universities."

Page last updated Fri April 23rd, 2010 at 16:47