WASHINGTON - The U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command’s communications-electronics center, or CERDEC, welcomed six scholarship students at an orientation here July 11-15.

The students, who will work in the center’s labs starting next summer, are recipients of the Science, Mathematics & Research for Transformation, or SMART, Scholarship for Service Program. This Department of Defense program provides undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students majoring in a science, technology, engineering or math related field paid summer internships with DoD labs and helps fund part of their education.

“The SMART program is a unique opportunity for government labs and research centers to identify those students from across the nation who bring incredible talent, innovation and dedication to the various STEM fields,” said Erica Bertoli, CERDEC Outreach Program manager, who was honored at the orientation as the 2011 U.S. Army SMART Facility Representative of the Year for her support of the program at CERDEC.

During the orientation students learned about their responsibilities in the SMART program, met other SMART scholars and received an introduction to working as a DoD civilian. CERDEC’s SMART scholars learned more about the center and its labs at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. and viewed demos of RDECOM technologies, including CERDEC’s Command and Control Multitouch Enabled Technology, a Microsoft Surface table that uses various C4ISR software tools; and CERDEC’s Night Vision and Electronic Sensors Directorate Shadowbox, a dynamic display with the capability to demonstrate three technologies simultaneously.

Delissa Carline, a senior studying industrial engineering at Morgan State University, had her first glimpse of CERDEC technologies during demos at the Maryland Junior Science and Humanities Symposium at Morgan State, which she has volunteered at for three years and was coincidentally where she first heard about the SMART scholarship.

“I was a little aware of the technology before, because I was able to view it at Morgan first, but what really surprised me was the optimizing of the displays. As an industrial engineer that is what I focus on, optimization, efficiency and things of that nature. To see that display become compressed so quickly made me excited,” said Carline, referring to the NVESD Shadowbox.

The incoming CERDEC SMART scholars will work in various technology areas at CERDEC, to include night vision, Army power, information networks and electronic warfare systems.

“I hope to gain the experience needed to not only enhance my education here at school, but to also make the transition into my service commitment with CERDEC a smooth one. Ideally, I will love what I do in the lab and intend on continuing my career with the DoD and CERDEC,” said Ashley Lidie, Ph.D. student in materials science and engineering studying solid oxide fuel cells at the University of Maryland.

In order to apply for the scholarship a student must be a U.S. citizen attending a regionally accredited U.S. college or university, meet a minimum 3.0 GPA requirement and commit to at least one year of employment with the DoD after graduation with the possibility of further full-time employment, according to the SMART program website.

“The 290 students who earn SMART Scholarships have competed with thousands of their peers and have emerged as the candidates who have the most to offer to the future of this nation,” said Bertoli. “CERDEC's participation in this program makes our organization stronger and positions us for continued success into the future by ensuring that we have access to the best and brightest young minds of the next generation.”

CERDEC has supported the SMART program since 2009. There are a number of CERDEC SMART scholars who have graduated and are now on staff, as well as three SMART scholar students interning for the summer.

Jaclyn Lynch, a junior studying mechanical engineering at the University of Virginia, is interning this summer with C2D’s Army Power Branch and has helped test solar panels, fuel cells and battery chargers.

“I literally learn something new every day. Whether it’s learning how a fuel cell works or how to strip wires with a wire cutter,” said Lynch.

“As I learn more I’m getting more involved. My charge controller project I actually put together myself. I struggled at first, but I learned a lot and now I really understand how it works,” she said.

Matthew Farley, a junior studying electrical engineering at Penn State, is placed with the Information Network Operations Division in the Information and Intelligence Warfare Directorate. Farley said he is enjoying the experience, not only because it’s his first time being out on his own, but also because of his interest in engineering.

“I like the math and science behind it, the challenge, the thought process and it can be very in depth. I like searching for a solution to a problem, like a puzzle for everything you do,” he said.

About two months into his internship, Farley is learning about I2WD’s technologies and even had a chance for a closer look at some of them with a visit to the directorate’s labs at Fort Monmouth.

“I was told that the work I2WD does is put into the field very quickly so that’s exciting knowing that something I’m working on will be used in six months,” said Farley. “It’s a good experience to work with new technology for the Soldiers.”

Greg Henderson, a mechanical engineering graduate student at Georgia Tech, who is interning with the Product Realization Directorate, shares Farley’s sentiment as it was a reason he applied for the SMART scholarship.

“One of the reasons I wanted to get into Department of Defense work is that a lot of engineering I feel is more indirectly helping somebody, where you say, ‘I go and build this product and it might help somebody, but I can’t really put a face on who it really is.’ But here it’s more of designing a product or helping with the creation of a product, and I know these people are actually using it and it’s actually going and saving lives,” said Henderson.

Farley encourages any student interested in a STEM career to apply for a SMART scholarship, because “it’s a really great program” with “great benefits.”

“I tell all my friends about it and they’re jealous. People I work with, I’ll tell them about it, and they’re like ‘wow that’s a really great program; I wish they had that when I was around’,” said Farley.