By Dan Lafontaine, U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering CommandJuly 30, 2013
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. -- Aspiring scientists and engineers are now exploring their future careers at a unified APG facility dedicated to education outreach.
Aberdeen Proving Ground, or APG, ushered in a new era of partnerships in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, for northeast Maryland with a ribbon-cutting ceremony July 30, 2013.
The APG STEM and Education Outreach Center brings tenant organizations together to pool resources that will enhance students' experiences in scientific and engineering disciplines. The facility accommodates up to 200 students.
Maj. Gen. Robert Ferrell, commanding general of the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command and APG senior commander, emphasized teamwork was necessary among organizations to make the STEM center possible.
"The new STEM facility has been a team effort across APG," Ferrell said. "Today represents our energy that we put behind that. Thank you for hard work and making this a reality."
Ferrell also stressed APG's commitment to STEM success for the region's students and teachers. Installation leaders signed an educational partnership agreement in December 2012 with Harford County Public Schools to formalize STEM outreach efforts.
"At APG, we have a saying: 'There may be a gate but it's only a gate, and it's not a barrier to our great relationship that we've built over time and will continue to build.' Those words are especially true when it comes to providing STEM education opportunities," Ferrell said.
Based on the Army Educational Outreach Program initiatives that APG organizations currently support, just the first floor of the three-story Building 4508 was renovated. The building was previously used for Soldier barracks.
About 100 Soldiers, Army employees, educators and local government officials joined senior APG leaders to mark the ceremony.
The facility opened to classes June 24 as part of AEOP's Gains in the Education of Mathematics and Science, a STEM summer program for middle- and high-school students. Four-hundred students and 29 teachers will use the SEOC this summer.
Dale Ormond, director of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, said he has been impressed by the number of students participating in GEMS. He said the program sparked an interest in STEM for two of his children.
"What this facility brings to the education experience changes the way children think and use science and engineering. It is a critical thing to begin stimulating the way people think," Ormond said.
Jeffrey Singleton, director of basic research, laboratory management and educational outreach for the assistant secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, introduced three students who started in Army STEM programs in high school and continued during college.
"I can assure you that the Army is very heavily invested in our youth and specifically in promoting student interest and increasing their technical proficiency in STEM," Singleton said. "The STEM and Education Outreach Center is a visual symbol of that commitment."
"I can think of no better representative to speak of the importance and impact of the Army STEM programs than the students who have been through the AEOP pipeline."
Nicole Racine said her academic success would not have been possible without STEM programs. She is a University of Maryland-Baltimore County sophomore majoring in mechanical engineering and an intern at RDECOM's Army Research Laboratory this summer through the College Qualified Leaders program, which matches Department of Defense scientists with college students to create a mentor-student relationship.
Racine has participated in AEOP since her freshman year of high school and attributed her passion for engineering to GEMS, CQL and the Science and Engineering Apprenticeship Program.
"I have always loved math and science, but I really didn't know how science could be applied. GEMS helped me realize what I can do with science and engineering," Racine said. "I officially developed a passion that will last me for the rest of my education.
"I love working in this lab because I know the research is directly applicable to real-life situations. I know that I have a role in ensuring the safety of our Soldiers. The Army Educational Outreach Programs that I participated in, from GEMS to SEAP to CQL, have given me valuable, hands-on lab experience that I would not have attained otherwise."
Two other students shared their STEM experiences and discussed the impact on their academic and career paths during tours of the building after the ceremony. Shelby Bartram is a Science, Mathematics and Research for Transformation scholarship recipient and an intern at RDECOM's Edgewood Chemical Biological Center. Amanda Weerasooriya is a CQL intern at ARL.
The STEM facility houses classroom space; laboratories for computers, electronics, and chemistry and biology experiments; metal and wood shops; and a robotics staging area. The Army supplied equipment that is similar in functionally for students to use but is less expensive than that used in real-world research laboratories. APG organizations can also use the classrooms for meetings and training.
Louie Lopez, chief of STEM education outreach at RDECOM, said the center benefits the Army's national and local programs that bring students into the laboratory for interaction with scientists and engineers. RDECOM provides technical oversight of AEOP and leads Team APG STEM efforts.
"The renovation of Building 4508 to a dedicated STEM facility enhances Team APG's role in STEM education regionally, state-wide and nationally," Lopez said. "The joint commitment of major tenant organizations on APG to SEOC establishes a foundation of a coordinated and cohesive approach to installation-wide STEM initiatives, aligning with Army, Department of Defense and the federal STEM strategic plan."
Organizations that contributed funding or equipment to the facility are APG Garrison; ARL; ASA(ALT); CECOM; Communications--Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center; ECBC; RDECOM headquarters; and Army Test and Evaluation Command.