WATERVLIET ARSENAL, N.Y. -- An inspection team toured the Army's Benét Laboratories last Friday and this visit tested the ability of this premier weapons research and design center to reduce their scientific jargon to an elementary level of understanding. Maybe, elementary is the wrong use of verbiage because, after all, these were high school students.

Thirty 9-12th grade students from the local Shaker High School Robotics Club visited Benét Labs to learn how the U.S. Army leverages science for the development and improvement of products to support our nation's warfighters.

Fortunately for Benét Labs, they had some history with many of these students and therefore, some of the scientific activities, such as measuring tensile strength and fatiguing material, were not new to them.

"Our Robotics Club had great support this past year from Benét Labs as they helped us in our nationwide competition to build a robotic basketball shooter," said Brian Ashline, a 9-12th grade technology teacher at Shaker High School who was escorting the students. "We participated in two competitions with our robot and we did fantastic having placed 2nd and 3rd."

Eric Gillette, a Benét Labs materials engineer who coordinated the visit, said that Benét got involved with Shaker High School earlier this year as a way for Benét to share its vast scientific and engineering capability with the community.

"The community has always supported the Watervliet Arsenal and we simply wanted to pay back the community by helping to educate its youth," Gillette said. "So, a few of us volunteered this year to help design and provide materials testing expertise to the Shaker High team in their effort to compete nationally."

During this four-hour visit, the students witnessed such activities as Benét Lab's Tyler Caron explaining biomedical modeling using stereolithography; Emerson Childs demonstrating tensile testing of howitzer tubes; Stan Rysio cutting steel for research to within three thousandth of an inch; and Tom Oathout showing how composite wrapping has the ability to significantly reduce weight of weapon systems.

So, how well did Benét Labs do considering that some of the students may have been experiencing some sort of withdrawal from not having touched their cell phones in nearly four hours?

"This was pretty cool," said Evan Bowman, a 12th grade student who is the president of the Shaker High Robotics Club. "I was impressed by the wide variety of scientific systems used by Benét Labs to not only develop weapon systems, but also to determine why weapon systems fail."

Bowman has applied to a few New York state engineering schools in hopes of starting college next fall. And now that he has worked with Benét Lab engineers for his high school project and has visited the Army research and design center, he said that he may consider employment someday at Watervliet.

The Watervliet Arsenal (pronounced water-vleet") 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 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 Thu December 13th, 2012 at 08:39