PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. -- Picatinny Arsenal employees hosted their annual "Introduce a Girl to Engineering" event on Feb. 21. It was attended by almost 80 female students from 22 area schools.

The event has been held on the third Thursday of February for the last seven years at Picatinny to coincide with "Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day," and also during National Engineer's Week.

"Tonight is for you to explore what it's like to be an engineer or a scientist, and the thrill of discovery and making things," said John Hedderich, director of the Combat Capabilities Development Command Armaments Center.

Even though many attendees may not know what occupation they will eventually enter, he said that was fine.

"You're the future of this nation. Here at Picatinny, we serve the flag of liberty by devoting our careers to making equipment for our Soldiers, our sailors, and Marines," Hedderich said. "And they're here to defend this nation, and we help them do that.

"And you're going to make the world a better place because of what you'll end up doing. We're just trying to help you make that decision."

Students had the opportunity to speak with female scientists and engineers at 18 unique stations. Engineers were available to discuss engineering topics related to the Department of Defense mission area that is predominant at Picatinny Arsenal: the development of the armaments and ammunition used by U.S. military personnel.

Salome Kufuor and Eesha Gudoor, both freshmen at Lehigh Valley Academy Regional Charter School, and teammates on a Technical Student Association (TSA) team, attended the event.

TSA is a national organization of students engaged in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

"I thought the biotechnology was really interesting," Gudoor said of one of her favorite stations, the biomedical engineering station. "We actually did a TSA project together and it was focused on biotechnology, and this (station) was about prosthetics and pharmaceuticals and I found that interesting."

The biomedical station provided an overview of biomedical fields and how they support our Soldiers.

"There were also a couple of activities, like building the most sturdy building for 30 marbles, and that was cool," she added.

The marble activity, which is meant to explain systems engineering design to the attendees, allowed them think of different ways to solve problems, and to explore different strategies in building a suspended structure that can hold a cup filled with marbles.

Other examples of STEM disciplines included chemistry, virtual reality, engineering, acoustics, optics, nanotechnology, mechanical engineering, and analysis related to experimentation.

"We really enjoy giving students an opportunity to see what STEM is in the real world, outside of the classroom," said Shahram Dabiri, STEM Manager for the Combat Capabilities Development Command Armaments Center at Picatinny Arsenal. "The value of a STEM education and subsequent STEM careers can be difficult to find relevant at times. This evening, they could see how their problem-solving skills can produce tangible results that solve real problems for Soldiers."

"I'm really interested in engineering, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to talk with people and learn more about the engineering principles and what I want to go into," said Erin Fitzgerald, a senior at Montclair High School.

Fitzgerald plans to major in either mechanical or industrial engineering in college. She said she appreciates the opportunity to discuss different engineering genres and to talk with engineers about what to expect from engineering courses in college.

"I just think you get to learn more about what you're interested in," Fitzgerald said of the event. "I've also met a lot of people here who aren't going into engineering but wanted to expose themselves more to the engineering world. I actually think that's great.

"And it also promotes women in STEM, so that's great in itself," she added.

Although women fill close to half of all jobs in the U.S. economy, they hold fewer than 25 percent of STEM jobs, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Commerce's Economics and Statistics Administration.

The CCDC Armaments Center is an element of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command within U.S. Army Futures Command. As the primary center for the advancement of armaments technology and engineering innovation, the CCDC Armaments center provides technology for over 90 percent of the Army's lethality with a focus on advanced weapons, ammunition and fire control systems.