Yuma Proving Ground (YPG) Army Outreach Education Program, Gains in the Education of Mathematics and Science (GEMS) summer camps brought smiles to the faces of 70 middle school students this year.

“It was awesome,” said seventh grader Emily Woods who took part in the camp because she would like to become an engineer.

The GEMS program aims to provide Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) exposure to students to peek their interest at an early age. Each camp is a weeklong and covers a variety of STEM related activities included testing remote controlled cars, launching rockets, learning about high-speed optics, dissecting frogs and testing bacteria.

YPG engineers, scientists, STEM coordinators and local educators guided students through the activities.

“It’s such a great feeling and it’s so rewarding when you hear kids say, ‘I want to do this again’ and they are so excited,” said Paula Rickleff YPG STEM Outreach Manager and GEMS Coordinator.

One of those students who would like to return to the summer camp next year is sixth grader Robert Temple, “It was really fun and educational.”

Executing the summer program took a lot of time and planning and Rickleff is appreciative of everyone who made it possible.

“I can’t thank our team enough. All the subject matter experts, staff, resource teachers, near peer mentors and everyone who has come out and supported the program.”

She also thanks the supervisors who granted their employees the time away from their day job to help. The YPG test officers and scientist were vital to the program’s success.

“They do such a great job. They have fun with the kids,” said Rickleff, “They have learned over the years how to best reach them. They are not teachers but they are becoming teachers and it’s really great.”

One of those test officers is Sarah Hogan with the Combat and Automotive Systems Division. She worked on the vehicle acceptance tests where kids used remote controlled cars and tanks.

"It's fairly representative of what we do on a larger scale but just in a fun manner for the kids," said Hogan.

Overall, the GEMS program was a success and accomplished its mission.

“We learned about some of the people who work here (YPG) and I would like to work here one day,” shared Woods.

The YPG Army Educational Outreach Program hosts the STEM theme program each summer.

More information on the program can be found at www.usaeop.com/program/gems