Common summer jobs for high school students include opportunities at local swim clubs, restaurants and babysitting. However, select students have a unique opportunity to work alongside U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, or DEVCOM, engineers and chemists in laboratories across the country. These students are part of the Gains in the Education of Mathematics and Science program, which is an Army-sponsored Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics summer enrichment program for middle and high school students.
Meilina Amaral participated in three GEMS programs at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, which led to her current role as a systems engineer in the DEVCOM Command, Control, Computers, Communications, Cyber, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Center’s Power Division. Amaral works with military Environmental Control Units, which control temperature and humidity in key areas, including tents, base camps, aircraft hangars and vehicles.
“GEMS exposed me to a lot of interesting topics that I would not have had the chance to explore as a regular high school student. Since the Army sponsors the GEMS program, I saw a lot of different types of labs including silent rooms, gun testing simulators and armor testing centers,” Amaral said.
As part of the application process, Amaral wrote an essay about why she wanted to participate in the GEMS program. The essay focused on key scientific areas she was interested in, as well as STEM-related school projects in which she had participated.
“All of the GEMS programs were highly educational, and they piqued my curiosity about science while furthering my love for STEM,” Amaral said.
Amaral’s GEMS experience includes robotics and microcontroller coding, live and simulated quadcopter flying, and dynamic design through catapult competitions. Additional experience includes the chemistry and physics that make up various materials including slime, 3D printing and Prince Rupert’s Drop, which is made by dropping molten glass drops into cold water.
Amaral continued her education, graduating from the University of Maryland, College Park with a bachelor’s degree in civil environmental engineering.
“The GEMS experiences helped me to secure a job after college because I leveraged the basic knowledge that I gathered in a variety of STEM topics during my summers,” Amaral said.
The GEMS program focuses on rising fifth through twelfth grade students who might not have given serious thought to following STEM career paths. GEMS is based on a multi-disciplinary educational curriculum that includes age- and grade-appropriate, hands-on activities in the following areas: science; engineering; mathematics; computational sciences; computational biology; biomedical sciences; chemistry; and biology.
“I highly recommend the GEMS program to students who are unsure about what they want to do in the future. The Army is truly a great resource and provides a lot of support to its communities,” Amaral said.
To learn more about the GEMS program, go to: https://www.usaeop.com/program/gems/
The U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, known as DEVCOM, is home to thousands of Army scientists, engineers, technicians and analysts working around the globe to leverage cutting-edge technologies and empower the American warfighter with the data and abilities to see, sense, make decisions and act faster than our adversaries – today and in the future.
As part of Army Futures Command, DEVCOM takes calculated risks to find new technological solutions each day. Our experts drive innovation, improve existing technologies and engineer solutions to technical challenges. Our work goes beyond theory to simulation and prototyping. We take potential science and technology solutions from the lab “into the dirt” for experimentation alongside Army Soldiers. DEVCOM prides itself as a global ecosystem of innovators, from world-class universities and large defense contractors, to small, minority-owned businesses and international allies and partners.