By Alexandra Foran, NSRDEC Public AffairsSeptember 11, 2013
NATICK, Mass. (Sept. 11, 2013) -- Stephanie Marcott takes time out of her busy life, even on the weekend, to enrich others' lives through her passion for science.
Whether she's volunteering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on the weekends to assist kids with physics projects or collaborating with teachers through her place of work at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, Marcott shares her enthusiasm for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, or STEM, and learning.
"I am a career peer mentor, since high school; it's just a trend," said Marcott, a research chemist who also runs the Bill Porter STEM Laboratory at NSRDEC. "Before high school I helped my brother and sister … When I joined the Army, I mentored other Soldiers with their training. I naturally fell into (working on STEM activities) here at Natick and helped out students."
The STEM lab has hosted a variety of groups, including students from local schools and teachers who come to NSRDEC for training. Marcott has created several fun hands-on activities for students to test in the lab, along with members of her team, and even brings some ideas outside of the lab for different local events.
During events such as the Girls' Robotics Day held at Natick High School, Marcott recognized the power of positive reinforcement and support for students learning new concepts. This interactive event focused on generating interest in science and technology in high schools by building basic robots for competition, a task many of the students were trying for the first time.
"You hear what (students) have to say," said Marcott, "and you can comment on the technical aspect in a way they can understand and suggest improvements or just encourage them, just say 'Keep going, keep up with what you're doing.'"
Mentors such as Marcott know that they sometimes learn as much, if not more, as the students they teach.
"One thing that you have to do as a mentor is recognize if a lesson isn't going so well, and adjust," said Marcott.
During one lesson on Atomic Force Microscopy, Marcott realized the students had a tough time understanding the concept, and he allowed the students to look at their own hair under a microscope.
As a chemist, Marcott knows the importance of safety in her career and makes lab safety an important part of every lesson she creates. This is one of the reasons she received an Army Individual Award for Excellence in Safety in 2011.
"I have a rewarding career already working for the warfighter, but it's even more rewarding that I also get to help the community and the youth of the nation," said Marcott.
Marcott has frequently been nominated as a regional "virtual judge" for eCYBERMISSION, an online STEM program sponsored by the Army for students in grades six through nine. The competition provides students the opportunity to solve a real problem in their community using STEM. eCYBERMISSION judges at the regional, state and national levels critique the web-based projects' scientific inquiry or the engineering design process, community benefit, and team collaboration.
Recently, Marcott has partnered with local schools to help teachers write proposals to send back to NSRDEC for activities. Various schools in the community received science kits to use in their laboratories. Kits such as Lego NXT Robotics can be loaned out to schools through NSRDEC.
Mentoring by engaging with students in a positive manner, as Marcott has done by volunteering her time for several years while working for the Army, provides STEM lessons for students outside of the classroom and gives them a real-world perspective into possible future careers in STEM.
NSRDEC 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.