ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (July 31, 2019) -- The U.S. Army's C5ISR Center is celebrating 25 years of promoting children's scientific development through the Educational Outreach Office's annual Math and Science Summer Camp program.
Since 1994, the Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Cyber, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, or C5ISR, Center - under Army Future Command's Combat Capabilities Development Command - has held a Summer Camp program for students to learn more about STEM, or science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
As Erica Bertoli, team lead of the C5ISR Center's Educational Outreach Office, noted, the Army was promoting STEM, "before it was the thing to do."
While schools began their STEM push approximately 15 years ago, the C5ISR Center, Bertoli added, "was already there."
Each year, the Outreach team serves thousands of students in Harford, Cecil and Baltimore counties by coordinating and supporting science fairs, competitions, internships, scholarships and other programming. Much of that is built, Bertoli noted, on the success of the Summer Camp program.
"Camp is the cornerstone; it is the flagship," she said.
What would become the C5ISR Center Summer Camp began as "Math and Science 2000," according to Sue Ann Peters, management analyst who worked with the camp when it began. Peters' late husband, Mark, wrote the original Summer Camp curriculum.
"It was an initiative to encourage math and science for children," Peters recalled. "The intent was to pull up the test scores by the year 2000, because we were behind other developed countries when it came to math and science."
At that time, what was then CECOM RDEC (later CERDEC, now the C5ISR Center) was located at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. The early summer camp programs targeted local schools and tapped engineers as the teachers. That camp was a one-week program, with classes for 5th/6th graders and 7th/8th graders.
At one time, the Summer Camp was four weeks long (or four sessions), serving students in 1st through 8th grades, according to former C5ISR Center (then CERDEC) Outreach team lead Kashia Simmons.
The program moved with the C5ISR Center to Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. in 2009.
Today, the C5ISR Center Summer Camp program is a three-week program focusing on students in grades five through 10. Each year's students, divided into 5th/6th, 7th/8th and 9th/10th grade classes, participate in activities centered on a theme. Themes are rotated each year to provide new experiences for repeat participants.
The curriculum is written by the Outreach team, spearheaded by curriculum developer Jackie Burr. Burr uses National Science Teachers Association standards to write the curriculum, which is taught by certified Harford County Public Schools science teachers. The camp is licensed in "good standing" by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
During the week, students get the chance to apply classroom concepts to real-life, hands-on projects.
Students also get a glimpse at life on-base, speaking with Soldiers and Army engineers.
It is "critical," according to Bertoli, to "show the students the difference between being an engineer and being an Army engineer."
"Your technology," she added, "is saving lives" by supporting Soldiers and serving the country.
While the Summer Camp program has grown over the decades, the goal has remained the same -- to make STEM accessible to all students.
It is a goal that extends throughout Outreach's programming. The aim is to bring STEM to where students are, from kindergarten to 12th grade, into college and, eventually, the workforce.
"We have had a long history of an excellent workforce. For the future we continue to need a pipeline of Engineers and Scientists to keep that tradition going and to continue to give our Soldiers the technological advantages they deserve," explained former C5ISR Center (then CERDEC) director Gary Blohm.
"Our outreach efforts are making a difference in helping get kids interested in technology at a young age," he added. "That passion has led many to pursue technical degrees that are so vital for the economic health of our nation."
Current C5ISR Center director Patrick O'Neill echoed this sentiment.
"Our best accomplishments begin when small teams dream big and share their ideas," O'Neill stated. "Therefore we must reach out -- we must remain persistent in providing awareness and creating opportunities for STEM platforms."
He added, "Investing in our youth is a key milestone in securing our future."
Making this investment now, Bertoli noted, is vital to "building the next generation of scientists and engineers."
But such a lofty goal is not achieved alone. Bertoli is quick to point out all of those who have contributed to making the Summer Camp a success over the last quarter century.
"This program is really a culmination of the heart and talent and hard work of so many people over 25 years," she said. "This Summer Camp stands on the shoulders of amazing, dedicated people."
The C5ISR Center is the Army's applied research and advanced technology development center for C5ISR capabilities. As the Army's primary integrator of C5ISR technologies and systems, the center develops and matures capabilities that support all six Army modernization priorities, enabling information dominance and tactical overmatch for the joint warfighter.
The C5ISR Center is an element of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command. Through collaboration across the command's core technical competencies, CCDC leads in the discovery, development and delivery of the technology-based capabilities required to make Soldiers more lethal to win our nation's wars and come home safely. CCDC is a major subordinate command of the U. S. Army Futures Command.