By Dennis Neal, RDECOM Public AffairsJanuary 5, 2015
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (Jan. 5, 2015) -- The U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, or known as RDECOM, recognizes employees who go above and beyond in support of science, technology, engineering and mathematics educational outreach.
For its next honoree, RDECOM salutes Suzanne Procell, a supervisory chemist with RDECOM's Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, or known as ECBC.
Procell has worked for the government for 34 years. She started as a typist but went back to school to earn an associate's degree in laboratory science technology from Harford Community College and her bachelor's degree in chemistry from Towson University.
Procell's start in STEM outreach began small. Her oldest daughter came home from school one day and asked her parents to talk to her science class. Her husband, Larry, is also a chemist with ECBC.
"We were thinking, how can we go talk about what we do because what we do is a little bit above the heads of children and then we thought, we can talk about a chemical reaction," she said.
Procell and her husband put together a presentation that was well received by the students, which led to more requests.
"The other teachers would say, 'can you come to my class and do the same thing with my students?' I felt like I couldn't get everywhere all the time and then it occurred to me, ECBC has all these great scientists. If I could somehow get them to come out, then we could go to all these classrooms," she said.
Procell was a member of the American Chemical Society and learned about its STEM outreach program, Kids & Chemistry. She got permission from ECBC leadership to work on the program and speak to her fellow chemists and scientists.
"We got some training and got some funds to buy some stuff and then out we went and started doing science with kids in school," she said.
Procell said there have been a lot of changes since she first started in January 2000, but one thing has not changed.
"What hasn't changed is the kids' excitement over doing something interesting and fun. And science will always be that. That's the same today as it was back then.
"The smile on a child's face when you do an experiment with them and they 'get it,' and they physically are manipulating solutions, mixing and stirring and this wonderful color change occurs or something goes 'pop'…that's the same.
"And the joy the volunteers get when they do that with the students, when they help them understand science. Kids love that, they love understanding how chemistry is part of their everyday life," Procell said.
"That's the same."
She said the reason Kids & Chemistry is so successful is all the volunteers that come together and give of their own time.
"We are not funded. We don't get paid to go into classrooms to do science with students. Most of our volunteers do it on their day off or they'll take leave," Procell said.
"It's their wisdom, their knowledge, their enthusiasm. Each volunteer that gives up some of their time and gives something of themselves and their expertise to that child makes the program wonderful."
Procell feels the outreach programs like Kids & Chemistry are important and she offers advice to anyone considering volunteering.
"Find your passion, then find a way to share it," she said.
The Edgewood Chemical Biological 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.