BALTIMORE -- The inquisitive minds of about 300 local students examined, inspected and explored the science and engineering that supports U.S. Army Soldiers.During the Innovative STEM Conference, the 2012 Maryland Junior Science and Humanities Symposium's first event over three days, Aberdeen Proving Ground research and development organizations displayed their contributions to America's Soldiers.Morgan State University hosted the expo March 8 at its Hill Field House.Carl White, associate dean of MSU's School of Engineering, said the event is an important step in showing students how their academic achievement is critical to the country's future."It's really important for these kids to understand that the future of the country relies on them. Technology is what drives our country," White said. "For us to be on the top and be competitive, we have to get these kids engaged early in math, science and engineering."White said that MSU invests heavily in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, outreach efforts in 12 Baltimore high schools through after-school programs and mentoring.Army scientists showed students how they use the principles in STEM courses -- math, physics, biology, chemistry, computer science -- to design, build and test everything that Soldiers will need for a mission. They displayed protective masks and vests, helmets, armor, night-vision devices, power sources and battery chargers.Lt. Col. Quentin Smith, with U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center, leads a project for network modernization. He said the military will depend on today's students to build future high-tech equipment for America's defense."The Army has to invest in science and technology," Smith said. "We have to invest in the education of our young people to pursue these technical professions because our future relies on it."To be able to build out the new network architecture and have the force of the future, it's primarily dependent on the younger generation having a passion for mathematics and science to develop and mature the technologies that are going to be required."Joseph Bryant, a senior at Reginald F. Lewis High School of Business and Law in Baltimore, plans to study business management at Coppin State University or enlist in the Army."I've learned that math and science apply to everything in life. It applies to the Army. It applies to getting a job in the future. It applies to everything you could ever do," Bryant said.White said he hoped to demonstrate to students that while they are the consumers of today's electronics, cell phones and computers, they can be the technology innovators of tomorrow by pursuing STEM fields."The benefit of this is to expose [students] early to all the different types of technology. It's to let them interact and engage, touch and feel the technology," White said. "They can understand that one day they can be the inventors, engineers, mathematicians or scientists that produce this technology."Army exhibitors at the expo included eCYBERMISSION, Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, Army Research Laboratory, CERDEC, Aberdeen Test Center and APG Veterinary Clinic.