ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. -- The Research, Development and Engineering Command's communications-electronics center, CERDEC, supported Team APG in hosting more than 400 area high school students for the installation's second Science Technology Engineer and Mathematics, STEM, Expo Nov. 18.

Ninth grade students from Harford, Cecil and Baltimore County Public Schools participated in numerous hands-on workshops and demonstrations, gaining a first-hand look into how the Army leverages STEM to protect and empower Soldiers.

Gary P. Martin, U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command, CECOM, 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.

He told the freshman 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," Martin said.

Broken into sections, students visited one of three hubs across the installation: the Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) Center of Excellence, the STEM Education and Outreach Center and the Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosives (CBRNE) campus.

In a collaborative effort, more than fifteen major tenant organizations on APG came together to participate in the event.

"One of the real goals of the APG STEM community, through various projects and partnerships we have, is to demystify STEM. For too long students have looked at sciences, mathematics and engineering as this unobtainable goal except for a small, select few," said Erica Bertoli, CERDEC outreach team lead who organized the C4ISR portion of the event.

At the C4ISR campus students visited three 30-minute lab workshop sessions followed by technology demonstrations from CERDEC, CECOM, the Army Test and Evaluation Command, and Program Executive Office Intelligence, Electronic Warfare & Sensors.

The workshops were designed to give the students a more detailed look at some of the technology expertise here at APG, said Bertoli.

During one of the workshops on electronic warfare, Daniel Rodriguez, an electrical engineer with CERDEC Intelligence and Information Warfare Directorate, or I2WD, likened EW to two students attempting to talk to one another from opposite sides of the room with their peers shouting noise between them to disrupt their conversation.

"Have you heard of IEDs [improvised explosive devices] or car bombs?" Rodriguez asked the students. "A lot of times these guys are using radios like these to trigger bombs. They put a receiver connected to the bomb, and they have a trigger guy send a message across to the receiver, and that's what makes the bomb go off. So what we try to do is to use electronic attack interrupt the signal to stop those bombs from going off and killing our guys."

CERDEC provided students hands-on demos in tactical networking, electronic warfare and alternative energy to expose them to the various opportunities available as an Army civilian engineer.

"What we want them to know, by giving them an opportunity to interact with our engineers and our scientists, is that success in a STEM field is driven by desire, passion, interest, excitement and the ability to think of old questions in new ways. There is no specific formula that makes an engineer, scientist or mathematician. If you want to do this, this is possible for you," said Bertoli.

At CERDEC's Renewable Energy for Distribute Under-supplied Command Environments, REDUCE demo, a mobile power system with combinations of rigid solar panels and fueled generators, students acted as alternative energy engineers and evaluated how much sun and wind power the system was pulling in.

"Not only are they getting to look at it, they're actually doing something interactive with it and it's pretty much a real world application. If it's something they're interested in pursuing, this could be the type of career they would be doing in the long run," said David Teicher, CERDEC Command, Power and Integration Directorate engineer.

Students also learned about Radio Frequency emitters and the detection of emitters through direction finding with CERDEC's VROD system and explored Mobile Ad hoc Networking with the CERDEC Quest Program.

"Outreach events like this are critical to help students explore different career and job opportunities. Most information they receive in school is generic definitions and basic requirements such as you have to be good at math and science. It doesn't relay the opportunities that exist that could instill the drive for them to pursue the career even though the education path may be more difficult," said Ryan Fillman, CERDEC I2WD engineer.

Students were encouraged to visit the different organizational demos at the C4ISR campus and ask the engineers about their education and career paths. There was also information available on internships and Army STEM and career programs.

"It gets us thinking about what we want to do when we're older. Right now at this stage everywhere we turn everyone's asking us what we want to do and it's kind of overwhelming as a 14-year-old," said Delaney from Bohemian Manor High school. "We've had a lot of online things at school but I think this is good for us, especially with this group of people."

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The Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center 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.

*Amanda Rominiecki, APG News, contributed to this article.