By Rachel Ponder, U.S. Army Garrison Public Affairs OfficeMarch 1, 2011
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - Explosive Chemistry. Shocking Science. Leaf Blower Levitation. BristleBots.
These were just a few of the breakout sessions at Youth Benefit Elementary School's first STEM Night, Feb. 17.
During the event more than 600 students and parents experienced educationally entertaining science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, projects, concepts, activities and information. More than a dozen scientists and engineers from Aberdeen Proving Ground presented hands-on activities related to their fields.
"These students are tomorrow's scientists and engineers," said Carmen Kiefer, a parent and YBES volunteer who works at APG's Army Chemical Materials Agency . "They will be solving real world problems. We want to give these students the inspiration and the tools they need to succeed."
During the event, Gayla Turner McMichael, from the Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center, which funds educational outreach events for the Edgewood Biological Chemical Center, said that getting students and parents enthusiastic about STEM is the goal behind this and similar events.
"Nationwide, we have a deficiency in students perusing STEM careers. Students just don't have an excitement for it," McMichael said. "These events introduce STEM in a fun way to students at an early age."
McMichael's hoping parents will continue to take an interest in STEM subjects, calling their role critical as the United States attempts to bounce back from a lagging STEM workforce. Worldwide, a country's STEM workforce is arguably the top indicator of that nation's ability to sustain itself.
"(These events and the parent-interest and student-participation) sets a tone at home and in the community," she said.
Jason Parks, YBES science teacher and STEM Night coordinator, said the evening's event served as a pilot for other Harford County public schools.
Jacob Little, YBES assistant vice principal, said the event exposes students to what will be expected of them if they decide to go into a STEM field.
"STEM will be the forefront of education," said Parks.
Gwen Tran attended the event with her daughters and niece. Spending time at the BristleBots activity, where parents and students make small robots with the help of two Army Research Laboratory scientists, Tran was pleased to attend the event, with an all-female crew in tow.
"This is great exposure, especially for girls, who typically do not go into engineering fields," she said. "I want to teach my children about different engineering and science fields as they grow up and encourage them to study these subjects, because there are many good jobs available in these fields."
Mary-Beth Patterson, whose son is in the fourth grade at YBES said that she appreciates government organizations like ECBC reaching out to the community. "This is exactly what our nation needs, to grow stronger and smarter, not only militarily but also educationally. There is a future value in these types of activities, as they encourage our children to be future innovators."
Scientists from the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center and Army Research Laboratory provided hands-on science activities and an exhibit during the event.
"ECBC has consistently proven its commitment to STEM education," said Joan Michel, STEM coordinator for Harford County Public Schools. "The scientists did an amazing job at capturing students' attention with an array of exciting, but relevant hands-on STEM experiences. It'll pay dividends, because these are the types of activities it takes to entice students to pursue STEM career pathways at an early age."