ORLANDO - The U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command recently participated in the 30th anniversary Technology Student Association Conference.

TSA provides a venue for middle and high school students to compete in more than 60 competitive events based on principles and concepts learned through projects during the school year in science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects.

RDECOM conducted a presentation where scientists and engineers showcased the technologies they work on with RDECOM. Students had the opportunity to ask questions and inquire about the many Army student internships and programs available geared towards their interest in science and technology.

"These kids are really bright, and it's particularly important that they find a route to continue to nourish their interest in science and technology," said Kashia Simmons, presenter at the RDECOM presentation. "We want students to be aware of what the Army is doing in technology."

Dr. Michael Doyle, eCYBERMISSION program manager, informed students about the programs the Army has to offer in the science and technology fields. One of these programs is eCybermission, a web-based science, math and technology competition for students in grades six through nine. eCybermission participants compete for regional and national awards while solving scientifically related issues in their community.

Doyle talked about the possibility of a shortage in scientists and engineers being developed in the United States. To combat this, the Army is reaching out to nurture students' interests in the science and technology and encouraging more to go into those fields. According to Doyle, the students at the conference represent the future technological base in the country.

"We want to grow scientists and engineers here in America," said Doyle. "It's real important that we are creating future generations that are literate in science, math and technology because that's fundamental to our way of life."

At the education fair, students interacted with technologies such as 'Sgt. Blackwell,' a simulation technology that is capable of responding to questions. Sgt. Blackwell is an interactive 3-D character capable of spoken interaction using natural language processing technology. Students were able to ask questions and Blackwell answered, sometimes in comedic ways.

Students were also introduced to America's Army, a simulation game used for training Soldiers on equipment and tasks.

The Personal Miniature Thermal Vision System and Night Vision Goggles were available for students to use during the conference. The thermal vision system allows increased resolution for thermal sight for the dismounted Warfighter. Night vision goggles provide the Soldier's capability to engage and execute closer combat and combat support in very low ambient conditions.

"I learned a lot today," said Anne Werkley, an eight grade student from New Jersey. "It was very interactive and I thought it was cool that night vision goggles gives Soldiers the advantage over the enemy." Werkley volunteered during the presentation, and had the opportunity to view the room in complete darkness through the goggles.

This is one of many education outreach events RDECOM supports. The Army's technology peaks the interests in children curious about science. Army robots are often one of the technologies that gain the interests of students.

"It was cool seeing how technology advances over the years," said Jordan Rosenthal, a ninth grader who attended the presentation. "I watch the Discovery Channel, and that's how I first learned about Army robots." Rosenthal viewed the Packbot robot at the session. He takes special interest in Army robotics. "I heard about the SWORDS robot while watching Future Weapons on the Discovery Channel, and it's such an awesome robot because you can send it into battle without using a Soldier, it [the SWORDS] keeps them [the Soldier] safe," he said.

For more information about Army student opportunities within RDECOM visit www.army.mil/rdecom/pages/business.html. For more information about eCYBERMISSION, visit www.ecybermission.com.