ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - Incoming 9th graders accepted into the Pathways in Technology Early College High School program at Joppatowne High School visited APG to participate in a technology showcase as part of their program orientation, in the Mallette Training Facility here, Aug. 9, 2022.
P-TECH is an innovative partnership between Harford County Public Schools, Harford Community College and the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command which provides students with not only their high school diploma, but an Associate's Degree in cyber security or information systems at no cost.
Larry Muzzelo, CECOM deputy to the commanding general and advocate for P-TECH, gave opening remarks to give students some insight on how Army civilians benefit Soldiers.
He explained that P-TECH opens up a great opportunity to get a head start in a career as a government civilian.
“You have no idea where you will go in your career,” Muzzelo said. “I never anticipated advancing the way I did.”
Students apply to P-TECH based on their interest in a science, technology, engineering or mathematics career field. They are then selected at random from the applicant pool. More than half of the program’s allocations are reserved for students who are in the free or reduced-price meal program.
“We want to reach students we may not have been able to without P-TECH,” Muzzelo said. “We welcome them to the installation. They are the future of our workforce.”
CECOM is the first government organization to sponsor a high school in this capacity, according to Muzzelo.
Casi Boyer, human resources specialist for CECOM, said P-TECH is one of the most popular magnet programs in Harford County. This year’s cadre has 32 students.
P-TECH students are exposed to all the tools they need to be successful, including certifications, training and mentorships. CECOM’s role is to provide workplace tours, mentorships and paid internships during the last semester of the students’ program.
Chief Warrant Officer 5 Linc McCoy, CECOM’s command chief warrant officer, was excited to have the new group of students visit APG.
“One day, you’ll help us warfighters out in the field as civilian [employees],” McCoy said. “You’ll make sure we are well-equipped and ready to accomplish our mission.”
Bradley Rinker, an incoming P-TECH student, said that he found out about P-TECH in a presentation at his middle school.
“My uncle used to work in cyber security, so I thought [P-TECH] sounded really cool,” Rinker said. “I want to get into it, too.”
Rinker said he liked learning about how civilians help Soldiers, particularly in robotics.
ATEC and ATC
The U.S. Army Test & Evaluation Command’s Aberdeen Test Center allowed students to virtually test a vehicle in a simulated environment, study different imaging technologies and operate ground robots.
Matthew Kurman, mechanical engineer for ATC, explained that his division is responsible for any visual testing.
Students recorded themselves shooting a Nerf gun at a target and watched it back in slow motion using a high-speed camera. They also saw what they look like on an infrared camera.
“There’s a lot of detail there,” Kurman said. “Temperature is invisible to the naked eye. It’s very sensitive equipment.”
David Oldewurtel, multimedia specialist for ATC, showed the students how they use 360-degree cameras and virtual reality to simulate test environments.
“We use a variety of imaging techniques to capture the data,” Oldewurtel said.
In another room, there was an on-going competition throughout the day to see who could finish the virtual environment test driving course in the quickest time.
Students also got to play with actual ground robots to manipulate medicine balls.
“We test them the same way we test anything,” Brain Reed, computer engineer for ATEC said. “We drop them, we make them go up and down stairs; we make them do anything a vehicle would do out in the field, just in a controlled environment.”
CECOM’s Software Engineering Center showed students a Joint Battle Command Platform, which works similarly to a global positioning system in a car.
“We can track every movement of both friends and foes,” Ryan Perry, an IT Specialist with the SEC, said. “The friendly forces are already identified in the system, whereas not-so-friendly forces need to be plotted by the user.”
This platform of systems is what the Army uses to track friendly forces and then securely equip Soldiers with the information they need. The students engaged with the system and supported a simulated attack on a bridge.
The SEC’s Army Reprogramming Analysis Team also had a demonstration. The presenters showed how ARAT gets mission essential software products to the field as quickly and safely as possible using threat identification and analysis, comparison of threat changes to current system capabilities, software design, and coding and testing in response to the threat and dissemination of new software to Soldiers in harm's way.
“We develop, test and sustain technology that goes out into the field every day,” Jon Kozich, an SEC computer engineer said. “Our enemies don’t get the chance to knock us down.”
Students got up close and personal with a large tactical vehicle that is used to test and evaluate U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Cyber, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance equipment performance in a more realistic environment. Students got to sit inside the Stryker Tactical Platform vehicle and learn how it’s used.
The DEVCOM Army Research Lab spoke to students about biotechnology and biochemistry.
“The technology that we are working on now won’t be available for many more years,” Meagan Small, research chemist for ARL said. “Biotechnology uses biology like bacteria and natural viruses to make new things.”
Small gave real-life examples of how biotechnology is used, most notably and recently with the COVID-19 vaccine. She said that scientists were able to use parts of the natural coronavirus to engineer an effective vaccine to fight back.
Robert Nevels, joint project manager for the Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense’s Sensory Integration on Robotic Platforms, demonstrated how an Army Man Transportable Robotic System is used to detect multiple hazards at a time.
“This platform here allows us to scan an item and tell the Soldier exactly what kind of hazard there is,” Nevels said. “Explosives, chemicals and other dangers have a certain smell. Thermal signatures are detectable. We can gather all of that information.”
Students worked together to brainstorm how they might use a sensory-integrated robot in their everyday lives.
Nevels’ daughter, Sanaya, is a current P-TECH student. She assisted with the demonstration and answered questions that the incoming students had.
“All of the teachers are really nice,” Sanaya said. “As long as you do all your work on time, you won’t have any trouble.”
At the end of this school year, the students will come back to APG for a special field day. They’ll brief senior leaders on their year-long projects and see their mentors one more time before their summer break.
More about P-TECH
P-TECH combines the best elements of high school, college and work-based learning. Students are immersed in high school as well as college courses while working in the field of computer information systems or cyber security. The program empowers students to pursue advanced education and to be financially successful in a global economy.
The program meets the needs of every high school student who wishes to graduate from high school with a free college degree in four to six years. Any rising ninth grader may apply to the program.
P-TECH is offered at Joppatowne High School in partnership with Harford Community College and CECOM at APG, offering students paid internships and individualized mentorship throughout their educational journey.