Most high school students today have never seen a paper map or owned a music CD, according to research. Smart phones, tablets and gaming systems are commonplace, while immersive technologies continue to grow. Given how integral technology is in how Americans communicate, learn and stay connected, it isn't surprising that the Army's Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Experience is one of the most requested assets of the U.S. Army Accessions Support Brigade's Mission Support Battalion (MSB) in their mission to keep America connected with its Army.
On Feb. 13, the Army unveiled its revamped STEM experience in Huntsville, Ala., at the Lee High School and New Century Technology High School joint campus. Like all of the MSB's mobile assets, the STEM experience supports the Army's marketing and recruiting objectives by bringing a hands-on experience direct to audiences who might be considering Army service or their influencers like parents, educators or coaches.
"One of the most effective ways to market the Army is through experiential marketing," said Mark S. Davis, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for marketing. "The Mobile Exhibit Company allows the Army to maintain an experiential marketing capability, a unit that brings the Army directly to the audience and allows them to experience some aspect of it. This is critical to engaging the millennial generation in particular who value authentic experiences when making decisions about their future."
The Army launched the first STEM Experience in 2012. The popularity of the vehicle during school visits across America led to the launch of another STEM Experience in 2013. Feedback from prospects, influencers, recruiters and ROTC departments formed the upgrades which highlight how pervasive STEM is in everything the Army does.
The STEM Experience leverages ongoing work by Army Soldiers and civilians in robotics, drone technology, computer simulation and leader development to highlight the Army's cutting-edge STEM work and training that some find surprising on their first exposure to the experience.
"I actually thought the STEM system was awesome. I understand the concept of SARAH, the dog I understand the STEM part of it." Lee High 11th grader, Nijah Freeman-Bolden said.
In the new STEM Experience, participants are invited to become part of the Army Team. Enter room one and stride 17 years into the future. It is 2032 and a radical political group vows to undermine world security. Attacks are threatened and security forces are on high alert. An on-scene news reporter covers explosions in an Eastern European chemical plant. Participants join a U.S. Army team deployed to the region to assist with humanitarian operations.
Enter room two and meet SARAH, the search and rescue autonomous hybrid now in development in Army laboratories. Developed to complete complex tasks in difficult terrain and dangerous environments, SARA provides Army rescue teams with a tool to stop environmental disaster and save trapped workers.
In room three, participants work as a team and put SARAH to work to navigate the factory and find survivors. Along the way are challenges based on science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Teams compete against time to breach obstacles and neutralize hazards. A scoreboard highlights each team's performance.
The upgraded Army STEM Experience was developed through a partnership between the Army Marketing and Research Group (AMRG) and Army Game Studio at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama. AMRG and the Army Game Studio have also collaborated on the America's Army game and online Army applications.
"This exhibit showcases the Army's use of Science and Technology today and for the future. By visiting the STEM Experience we hope people are inspired to learn more about opportunities and training in the Army," Cavanaugh said.
Two Army STEM Experience vehicles are part of the Mobile Exhibit Company, part of the U.S. Army Mission Support Battalion at Fort Knox, Ky. The battalion was founded in 1936 when the Secretary of the Army tasked a small handful of Soldiers to man an exhibit at the World's Fair in New York City. The Army unit has since evolved as the tactical arm of Army marketing, with more than a dozen trucks and trailers that house rolling exhibits that help connect America's people with America's Army. Each year the Soldiers and civilians of the battalion travel thousands of miles year-round to support Army outreach at hometowns across America.
The battalion is part of the U.S. Army Accessions Support Brigade that also includes the historic U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit and U.S. Army Parachute Team. The brigade is aligned under the Army Marketing and Research Group.
Visit the Army STEM Experience online at GoArmy.com and on Facebook.