ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (Nov. 20, 2014) -- Team APG hosted more than 400 area high school students for the installation's second Science Technology Engineer and Mathematics (STEM) Expo Nov. 18 at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.
Ninth-grade students from Harford, Cecil and Baltimore County Public Schools in Maryland participated in numerous hands-on workshops and demonstrations, gaining a firsthand look into how the Army leverages STEM to protect and empower Soldiers.
Gary P. Martin, U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command deputy to the commanding general, encouraged students to consider a career in engineering and that STEM-related careers will continue to be in high-demand.
"Engineering is very broad field," he said. "You can do many, many things."
He told the freshmen they can prepare for their future now by taking challenging math and science classes and participating in STEM extra-curricular activities.
"The decisions you make today will prepare you for what you will do in college," he said.
Divided into three sections, students visited one of three hubs across the installation: the command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) campus and the STEM Education and Outreach Center on APG North (Aberdeen) and the chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosives (CBRNE) campus on APG South (Edgewood).
In a collaborative effort, more than fifteen major tenant organizations on APG came together to participate in the event.
"The STEM Expo is unique because it gives students the opportunity to explore the depth and breadth of all the STEM activities here within the APG community," said Erica Bertoli, CERDEC outreach team lead who helped organize the event.
"We hope students see that no matter your interests, no matter your passions, you have a future in STEM."
At the C4ISR Center of Excellence, students explored complex, emerging technologies in the areas of computers, networks, power and communications.
Six laboratories, from organizations including the Communications-Electronics Command, the Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center, CECOM's Software Engineering Center, the Army Test and Evaluation Command, PEO Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors, and CECOM's Logistics Readiness Center, opened their doors to students as they rotated through three workshop sessions.
Lab sessions allowed students to explore mission command, manipulating Google Earth maps to simulate tracking friendly and enemy troop movement, understand electronic warfare and signal jamming, and see the work that goes into establishing and maintaining a mobile network.
"At first I thought the military meant a lot of fighting, but it's a lot more complex than that," said Harford Technical High School ninth-grader Saron Shara Shanka, 14. "There's a lot of technology behind it. I loved learned about the jammer. It was cool."
A lunchtime session brought all students at the C4ISR campus back together, to see demonstrations and participate in hands-on activities including a "Whack-a-Dummy" activity hosted by ATEC that showed students how data recorders analyze the injuries caused by impacts to the body.
"My favorite part was learning about thermal scanning and how the Army uses technology," said Bohemia Manor High School ninth-grader Cailynn Kelley, 14. "I didn't know they use so much technology to target things. It was really interesting."
At the installation's STEM Education and Outreach Center, the Army Research Lab and the Army Materiel Systems Analysis Activity led several workshops about 3-D printing, robotics and neuroscience.
While at the robotics labs, students learned the basic concepts of 3-D modeling and simulation, as well as observed how robots autonomously explore an environment.
"We went through a maze with a controller and we had to draw a map through the maze and draw pictures throughout the maze," said Rising Sun High School ninth-grader Robert Davis, 14. "Then we went to go see the maze to see if we got the drawing of the maze right."
Davis said he was inspired by the "robotics and how robots and their controls work. It was pretty cool."
During the neuroscience workshop, students had the chance to control a computer without lifting a finger, simply using their minds.
Other activities included learning how to determine the strength of various materials. Students conducted tests on everyday materials, determining how heavy of a load they could handle before breaking.
While Rising Sun High School ninth-grader Liz Zatalava, 14, wants to be a forensic scientist after college, she said "it was still really cool to watch new things I hadn't learned before."
"If you really like something, don't worry about what other people think about it. Just go for what you love," she said, encouraging fellow students to pursue their passions.
The CBRNE campus included hands-on demonstrations and STEM activities showcasing leading Army technologies in areas like epidemiology, waste management, robotics, nutrition, and microbiology.
Despite the frigid weather, Suzanne Milchling, director of program integration for the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, warmed up vistiors with hints about the exciting morning ahead of them.
Milchling said the scientists and engineers of Edgewood collaborate with each other as well as other agencies around the nation and the world on projects large and small.
"It takes a lot of work to make a gas mask that will fit everyone in this room," for example.
"Today you'll see how STEM can make our lives better and impact the world," she said.
Students had the opportunity to use various methods to test soil samples in a mock "whodunit" crime scene, learned about sustainability and how different materials can be recycled to manage waste and how bacteria and diseases spread.
North East High School ninth-grader Anna Gwinn, who said she plans to be a doctor said she was having fun at ECBC's Manipulating Microbes display.
"It's all been interesting. I've seen a lot of new stuff I haven't seen before," she said.
Other CBRNE lab activities included exploring how robotic arms used to handle dangerous materials function, building circuits, speakers and bridges and learning about the importance of physical and mental health.
Sixteen-year-old Melvin Kiah from Paul Laurence Dunbar High School said he's leaning toward an athletic career and he thought a lot of the exhibits were "pretty cool."
"I've seen a lot of this stuff on TV," he said after working with a robotic arm at the PEO ACWA display. "But this is the first time I've seen it live."
Activities at the CBRNE campus were hosted by Public Health Command, the Chemical Materiel Activity, Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, PEO Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives, JPEO Chemical Biological Defense, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and the Army Educational Outreach Program, spearheaded by the Army's Research, Development and Engineering Command.
Regardless of which technology hub students visited, each workshop included information about the STEM degrees related to the technologies, helping students make a direct link between a path of study and an end career.
"Coming here to learn opened my mind up to how the little things people do every day - about building different things and testing different things and how they affect the whole world when we put the Army [in field]," said C. Milton Wright High School ninth-grader Catherine Uhland, 14.
"Testing...can save so many people's lives and it really got me interested in wanting to help people. You can make a difference in a lab. It kind of made me inspired to think about more than just helping the Army but trying new ideas," she said.
Throughout the morning students learned about the various summer programs available to students, as well as educational opportunities, internships, apprenticeship programs and scholarships through the Army and the Department of Defense.
For more information about the APG STEM Education and Outreach Center and the Army Educational Outreach Program, visit www.usaeop.com/.
(APG News staff members Yvonne Johnson, Rachel Ponder and Stacy Smith contributed to this article.)