WATERVLIET ARSENAL, N.Y. -- High school honors students, who are enrolled in a college-preparatory science program called New Visions, helped turn Army laboratories at the Watervliet Arsenal into classrooms on April 25. The purpose of the visit was to give students a firsthand look at the role science and technology have in the development of military weapon systems.

The Army's Benét Laboratories, which is located on the Watervliet Arsenal, shifted several of its operations into science classrooms for 15 local high school honors students who are enrolled in the New Visions' Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math program that is administered in Rensselaer, Greene, and Columbia counties.

The 12th grade students were from Troy, Tamarac, Maple Hill, Taconic Hill, Averill Park, Berlin, Hoosic Valley, and Cohoes high schools, said Tammie Borland, the New Visions teacher who coordinated the visit.

"This is a special program for high school seniors who want to concentrate in science and engineering in preparation for college," Borland said. "What is great about the New Visions program is that we live and breathe hands-on education and that is why we like to visit such places as the Army's Benét Labs."

Sara Makowiec, an electronics engineer with Benét Labs, coordinated with Borland for the visit. After all, who better than Makowiec to know what the students would like given that she had gone through the same New Visions program five years ago.

"This was great for us to interact with students who have interest in the type of science and technology that we work with at Benét," Makowiec said. "For me, I still remember how exciting it was going through the New Visions program five years ago because the program gave me great insight into a wide variety of scientific fields of study."

But it is often easy to please teachers and Arsenal workers who like to share their knowledge with folks outside of the Arsenal fence line and so, the value of the visit truly rested with the students.

If one could measure the body language, such as the smiles and looks of inquiring interest, then the visit was a success for Benét Labs and for the New Visions program. But better than body language were the comments from Robert Strang, a Troy High School senior.

"This was my first time visiting the Watervliet Arsenal and I was surprised at how much science and technology is used to manufacture weapon systems," Strang said. "I was most impressed, however, at how the many fields of science are brought together to achieve a common purpose at the Arsenal."

Most of the students have never visited the Watervliet Arsenal. But if Strang's fellow students left the Arsenal feeling the same way as he did, then Benét Labs did a lot more than simply sharing their work with high school students -- they also educated some of America's future science and engineering experts about the value of military manufacturing.

According to the New Visions website, the STEM program is located at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, N.Y., and is part of the Questar III program that is sponsored by the New York Board of Cooperative Educational Services. As part of the curriculum, students interact with more than 80 professionals each year, including researchers from RPI as well as technology organizations such as General Electric and Benét Labs. This program is an ideal choice for students who want to know what it really means to be an engineer or scientist, as it integrates rigorous academics with practical experiences.

The Watervliet Arsenal is an Army-owned-and-operated manufacturing facility located in Watervliet, New York. The Arsenal is the oldest, continuously active arsenal in the United States, having begun operations during the War of 1812.

Today's Arsenal is relied upon by U.S. and foreign militaries to produce the most advanced, high tech, high powered weaponry for cannon, howitzer, and mortar systems. This National Historic Registered Landmark has an annual economic benefit to the local community in excess of $100 million.

Benét Laboratories, which will celebrate its 50th Anniversary in May 2012, is a Department of the Army research, development and engineering facility located at the Watervliet Arsenal. It is a part of the Weapons & Software Engineering Center (WSEC), Armament Research, Development, and Engineering Center (ARDEC), which is located at Picatinny Arsenal, N.J.

Page last updated Fri April 27th, 2012 at 10:14