BEL AIR, Md. (June 17, 2013) -- The U.S. Army aims to build excitement for science, technology, engineering and mathematics among local seventh-grade girls by supporting a discovery day.

Scientists and engineers from the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command chemical and biological center recently supported Project DREAM Work's Girls STEM Discovery Day at Harford Community College.

Project DREAM Work is a middle school initiative of Harford Community College and the Women in Defense, Mid Atlantic Chapter, to engage 30 female Edgewood Middle School students in hands-on STEM experiences.

"As the nation's principal research and development resource for nonmedical chemical and biological defense, it is [Edgewood Chemical Biological Center's ] mission to protect our warfighters and the nation against potential CB threats," said Suzanne Milchling, ECBC director of program integration. "It is also our responsibility to help prepare today's students for the jobs of tomorrow to ensure we have access to a pool of STEM professionals who are able to tackle complex problems through cutting-edge solutions."

Milchling said men still outnumber women in most STEM career fields.

"It is critical that we encourage the girls in our community to consider future STEM career pathways," she said. "Therefore, our community and educational outreach program focuses on developing a diverse and highly skilled STEM talent pool in our community."

Scientists and engineers, who work at ECBC to keep our warfighters and the nation safe against CB threats, participated in this initiative to spark girls' interest in pursuing a STEM career pathway. The National Defense Education Program funded two interactive workshops to reinforce real-world application of STEM concepts.

ECBC research biologists Jody and Mark Gostomski revealed their subject matter expertise during a workshop lesson coined 'Fascination DNA.' In a laboratory setting, female seventh-graders had the opportunity to perform agarose gel electrophoresis, a common forensic technique used in DNA fingerprinting.

'Lemon Power' was another compelling hands-on workshop that ECBC supervisory chemist Mary McNally and chemical engineer Mark Ciampaglio provided to relay the relevance of electrical engineering in the real world. The researchers challenged students to design, build and test a circuit while using lemons, potatoes and limes as batteries.

Two additional STEM workshops included 'Soil Forensics' presented by Morgan Minyard, Ph.D. from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency's Joint Science and Technology Office and "A Berry Full of DNA" by Lauren McNew from the Program Executive Office for Command, Control and Communications-Tactical.

After the workshop sessions, Gostomski, McNally, McNew and Milchling served as panelists to inform the young female audience about STEM careers in the defense community.

"Project DREAM Work's Girls STEM Discovery Day aims to prepare female students for future STEM career pathways in their backyard," said Project DREAM Work Program Director Mindy Costanzo-Romero.

"Our partnership with ECBC and WID enabled us to bring in Army scientists and engineers, who shared the rewarding nature of their careers with the girls and gave them an understanding of various skill sets required to succeed as a STEM professional," Costanzo-Romero said.


ECBC is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to develop technology and engineering solutions for America's Soldiers.

RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command. AMC is the Army's premier provider of materiel readiness -- technology, acquisition support, materiel development, logistics power projection, and sustainment -- to the total force, across the spectrum of joint military operations. If a Soldier shoots it, drives it, flies it, wears it, eats it or communicates with it, AMC provides it.