College-level STEM programs offer Army and students meaningful exchange

By Gay Pinder, DEVCOM C5ISR Center Public AffairsJune 4, 2021

Soldier uses army radio communications
Student trainees work on projects like radio frequency communications that directly impact the Soldier. (Photo Credit: Capt. Avery Schneider) VIEW ORIGINAL

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (June 4, 2021) — The Army is helping to develop the next generation of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) employees through its college-level programs, allowing students to gain hands-on experience on projects and technologies that will benefit Soldiers.

The Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Cyber, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C5ISR) Center – a component of the Army Futures Command’s Combat Capabilities Development Command – offers two college-level opportunities: the STEM Student Employment Program (SSEP) and the Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation (SMART) Scholarship-for-Service Program.

The SSEP gives C5ISR Center administrators direct hiring authority to bring college students onboard as interns, streamlining the hiring and development of high-quality STEM students, according to Matthew Smick, program staff advisor with the C5ISR Center’s Workforce Management Branch.

“It allows students to gain real-world experience while pursuing education at the same time,” Smick said. “An internship with us will show students how their role fits into assisting the Soldier. That’s the ultimate goal: providing technology and solutions for the Soldier.”

Loyola University sophomore Rebekah Abraham learned about the SSEP at a college career fair and will be working as an intern with the Center this summer. “I am really excited to work in a team in the workforce,” Abraham said. She plans to become a computer engineer after graduation.

Rebekah Abraham's LinkedIn post.
New student trainee Rebekah Abraham says posting about placing in the STEM Student Employment Program (SSEP) is a rite of passage. (Photo Credit: Rebekah Abraham) VIEW ORIGINAL

Once students graduate from college and complete their internship, they have an opportunity to use the experience to become a full-time employee with the Center, as Jeremy Martin did. In May 2019, Martin began an internship with the Center working on radio communications. After graduating with a degree in information technology (IT), Martin began work as an IT specialist with the Center.

Jeremy Martin
Jeremy Martin, left, works a Command Post Computing Environment client during a Tactical Network Demonstration at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall. (Photo Credit: Jeremy Martin) VIEW ORIGINAL

The SMART Scholarship Program goes beyond an internship, providing students with full tuition, monthly stipends, health insurance, and book allowances as well as summer internships. Once students complete their degree, they can begin working in a civilian position with the Center.

Kolby Kuratnick participated in the SMART Program beginning in 2017, when he received scholarships for his junior and senior years at the University of Delaware.

“Attending a school from out of state can be very expensive. Financially, [the scholarship] made a huge, huge difference to me,” said Kuratnick. He added that the scholarship allowed him to focus on his degree, and his internship gave him experience working with augmented reality. Today, Kuratnick, an electrical engineer, uses data analysis to provide the warfighter with a more accurate and better performing radar product.

“Generally, they all do very well because they are in rigorous STEM programs at school,” said Margaret Maloney, a C5ISR Center program staff advisor. “Most of these kids have a grade point average of 3.0 or higher. They are very diligent students.”

The SMART program and SSEP are long-established aids for recruiting C5ISR Center employees with backgrounds in computer science, electrical or electronics engineering, and mechanical engineering. Smick and Maloney have used the direct hire authority of SSEP to expand diversity and to revive a cooperative relationship with York College.

“The co-op program at York College is a wonderful recruiting tool for us,” Smick said.

Co-op programs allow students to learn about theories in a classroom setting followed by periods of hands-on experience prior to graduation. All  York  College  engineering  students  follow  a  co-op  schedule  consisting  of  three co-op semesters beginning with the summer between the second and third year of study. Not all co-op semesters have to be with the C5ISR Center, though Smick and Maloney are hoping they can attract students to complete all three co-ops with the Center.

“They can choose to stay with the same C5ISR Center employer or go to a different directorate so that they can have a well-rounded understanding of the facility itself throughout their co-ops,” Maloney said.

Unlike the SSEP and SMART program, the York College Co-op does not guarantee employment, but Smick and Maloney believe it is still a win-win program.

“We get to train and evaluate students while they are exposed to real-world engineering,” Smick said. “Once they graduate, we can hire them as well-qualified, full-time engineers who can really hit the ground running. It can be a good return on investment for us.”

For more information on the C5ISR Center’s programs for college-level students, please visit the C5ISR Center’s Higher Education Resources page.


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 U.S. Army DEVCOM. Through collaboration across the command’s core technical competencies, DEVCOM 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. DEVCOM is an AFC major subordinate command.

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