ELKTON, Md. -- Deonte Lewis traveled 21 years into future to a world in the midst of terrorist attacks and civil unrest. He then joined a team of U.S. Army Soldiers and civilian scientists to design new technologies to protect lives and defeat the threat.

Lewis, a freshman at Elkton High School, and about 50 fellow students helped the Army beta test its new Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Asset Vehicle in the school parking lot Dec. 5.

"It was epic! It was amazing!" Lewis said after touring the vehicle. "Science and engineering are something I've been into for a long time.

"I've seen the 'Go Army' commercials where they show the guy in the plane talking to people on the ground. I have family in the armed forces. They tell you it's more than just going out there with a gun going Rambo on everybody. They let you know there's a lot more to it. You have to be smart."

Senior John Cook plans to study aeronautical engineering in college because of his talent for math and interest in aviation. He said he enjoyed the vehicle's interactive features that allow students to design customized technical solutions.

The STEM Asset Vehicle is a modified tractor-trailer equipped with high-definition TVs and touchscreen computers. The Army designed it to attract and engage aspiring young scientists, said Louie Lopez, STEM outreach coordinator for the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command at Aberdeen Proving Ground.

Lopez said the vehicle will help create public awareness of the strong science and technology workforce that supports Soldiers while capturing students' attention and inspiring them to pursue STEM careers.

"The vehicle provides an experience for students to think about how research and science can attack worldwide issues such as global terrorism and biological or chemical warfare," Lopez said. "It puts students in the year 2032, and they're given a scenario as well as high-tech capabilities in designing and developing their own countermeasures."

Several students said they were not aware the military employs scientists and engineers across the world to support Soldiers in combat.

"It's kind of surprising because I thought most [Soldiers] fight to protect us. There's a lot of technology behind it, which I didn't know," freshman Tatianna Msackyi said.

Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Oliver and Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Adam will be the first Army recruiters to drive the vehicle across the country to STEM outreach events. They will wear futuristic-looking mock body armor designed, tested and built by the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center's Advanced Design and Manufacturing unit at APG.

Oliver is assigned to the Army Accessions Support Brigade's Mobile Exhibit Company at Fort Knox, Ky. He previously served eight years in the infantry, two years as a recruiter and eight years as a recruiting station commander.

"[The vehicle] shows [students] how the Army uses and advances technology," Oliver said. "Their pursuit of a degree in an advanced field in STEM could be helpful to not just the Army but also civilian employers in short supply of engineers.

"The whole point is to generate interest in the Army and these career fields, as well as put Soldiers, such as local recruiters, in contact with people in their area so they can interact with the community."

Lopez said the vehicle allows the Army to demonstrate how it helps to lead innovations in the scientific community.

"As soon as the Army STEM Asset Vehicle is commissioned in January (at the Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio), it's going to be traveling throughout the United States. [The recruiters are] going to schools and major conferences that are STEM focused to get students and educators to become aware of what the Army does, not only for support of the Warfighter, but for its contributions to the nation in general," Lopez said.

Page last updated Fri December 9th, 2011 at 00:00