BEL AIR, Md. -- The future of Harford County gathered March 24 at Harford Technical High School to explore their education and careers.

About 800 high-achieving 11th-grade students from Harford Technical, Joppatowne, Aberdeen, Bel Air and Edgewood high schools attended the Futures 11 conference to prepare for the next phase of their lives.

Gary Martin, U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command executive deputy to the commanding general, encouraged the students to discover the benefits of a career in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, known as STEM.

"There is no better time to be in a STEM field," Martin said. "There is no greater opportunity for people who live in Maryland to stay here at home and have wonderful careers."

Martin pointed to the influx of engineers and scientists to Aberdeen Proving Ground as part of base realignment and closure, commonly known as BRAC. APG is the Army's new hub of research and development, he said.

Robert Tomback, Harford County Public Schools superintendent, echoed Martin's remarks. He told the students that their choices today will build their foundation for future successes.

"The opportunities that lie ahead for you are enormous," Tomback said, referencing BRAC and future jobs in science and technology in Harford County. "[Employers] are looking for you. They want students like to you to come to work for them. They want students who have shown dedication, tenacity and a high level of academic preparation."

Martin presented a slideshow of those who have led the world in electronics and computing innovation. He said they are examples of how scientists and engineers can improve society through their daily work.

"None of these engineers or scientists had any idea what would happen to their inventions. Their inventions have stood through time. It took hundreds of years for engineers to figure out how to make this work," Martin said, referencing Apple's iPhone and iPad. "What value can I add to society'"