COLUMBUS, Ohio (Army News Service, Sept. 19, 2008) -- Army commands are teaming up with the Ohio Department of Education and "Project Lead The Way" to use America's Army PC game to promote student interest in the engineering and technical fields.
"The U.S. Army is committed to educating today's youth," said Col. Casey Wardynski, director of America's Army game project. He said America's Army combines the power of gaming and simulations with real-life equipment to create a compelling academic program.
Using the gaming platform, a number of applications have been developed for the coming year to enhance Project Lead the Way's engineering curriculum, currently in 3,000 middle schools and high schools nationwide. The first educational module will be incorporated into the PLTW Principles of Engineering course.
Students will use the America's Army gaming technology to explore kinematics in a ballistics project. They will be able to test the accuracy of their calculations in the virtual environment to observe how different variables such as displacement, time, velocity and elevation angles affect the principles of engineering.
Students will be able to visualize a parabola trajectory and calculate the varied velocities, ranges, and angles of their device within the game. Students will also be able to 'drive' a vehicle around a virtual obstacle course as well as perform a virtual helicopter drop and determine how various factors will affect the physics of the activity.
"Emerging research indicates that rich virtual simulation does increase student mastery, especially in technical studies," said Richard Grimsley, PLTW Vice President for Programs.
After an initial pilot in the state of Ohio, the modules will be incorporated into Project Lead the Way's teacher training system for deployment in all pre-engineering classes throughout the country in the 2009-2010 academic year.
Other applications being considered include modules in biomedical sciences, biotechnical engineering, digital electronics, civil engineering, robotics, and team-based projects where students are able to experiment with Army technologies.
The partnership came about as a result of the efforts of the 3d Recruiting Brigade which coordinates Army recruiting and communications efforts throughout the greater midwest. The 3d Recruiting Brigade had established a relationship with the Ohio Department of Education for an outreach to the Ohio school system. Representatives from the Ohio DOE saw great opportunities in repurposing the America's Army game technologies for enhancing Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics education and the Project Lead the Way modules in Ohio. The DOE partnered the Army with the Project Lead The Way Ohio affiliate.
Working together the various organizations created the curriculum for use at both the local and national levels for Project Lead the Way. The U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center is also involved in the partnership.
America's Army is a free online game that provides civilians with a virtual role in the U.S. Army by introducing them to Army technologies, rules of engagement, training and missions. Used as a communications tool, the game has also been adapted for use within the military to produce virtual environments that enhance Soldier training in a number of areas including force protection, convoy survivability and nuclear, chemical and biological detection.
"Soldiers use amazing technology to accomplish their mission every day, and we are proud to be sharing Army technology with the STEM education community," said Judy Kuegler, education services specialist with 3d Recruiting Brigade. "We are pleased to be a part of this partnership that prepares our young adults to become the next generation of highly qualified scientists and engineers who, in turn, may one day work in our laboratories to create this technology for future Soldiers."
The Army plans to launch its first America's Army Technology Education module in the upcoming Project Lead The Way teacher professional development conference in Ohio. The Army is also hosting Teacher Educator Tours of Army facilities and technology expositions as part of this ongoing initiative. Educators have the opportunity to visit Army labs to meet with engineers and scientists and preview the latest technologies from missiles, to robotics, to flight simulators and nuclear biological and chemical detection systems.
"When we were approached by the U.S. Army late last year (2007), we realized the great opportunity this project represented for engaging students in a learning environment that excites them," said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Susan Tave Zelman. "This will move the STEM initiative forward in vast ways and refocus teaching strategies in the classroom. This marks a real shift in the education paradigm to utilizing a technology platform that students are familiar with and enjoy!"