PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. -- Learning continues into the summer for a few lucky children who are participants in the first Picatinny STEM Summer Enrichment Program.

The program is a weeklong educational experience designed to elevate a student's understanding of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) through a series of hands-on activities. It is coordinated by the Armament Research and Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC), and Picatinny Arsenal Child and Youth Services.

There are three, weeklong programs for different age brackets. The program is for students from elementary school to high school. However, the program is currently open only to dependents of military personnel stationed here and children of Picatinny employees.

"We are looking to make it a real educational experience," said Ed Petersen, the program manager for the Defense Ordnance Technology Consortium's STEM Outreach Program.

The program's mentors have been selected from the surrounding communities and each specialize in a different field, such as engineering and math. The teachers have adapted the ARDEC-developed curriculum to show students the importance of scientifically understanding the world around them.

"We'd be unable to make this program work without these master teachers," Petersen said.

Projects offered during the program ranged from constructing balloon powered cars out of cardboard and straws, to launching Styrofoam rockets using a pneumatic launcher. Students learned about bridge building using a product called Lego MindStorms, which allows students to build robots, machines, buildings, or animals entirely out of legos.

One of the most popular topics in the program is robotics, said Peterson. Several outside communities donated small robots so that the kids could learn to operate a robot using a hand-controller.

The younger kids were taught how to drive the robots while older kids learned how to move robots with sensors attached to them. As with their other projects, the students were encouraged to write about their scientific experience in journals.

To show how scientific concepts can be applied in daily experiences, the program also included student visits to various labs and facilities throughout Picatinny.

For instance, the kids went to Picatinny's Frog Falls Water Park and learned how to measure the angle of the water slide's slope as well as to calculate their velocity as they came down the slide.

"Typically, kids will learn about science by taking a trip to the Liberty Science Center," Petersen said. "But here at Picatinny, we have the ability to take these kids to a lab or a facility right on base."

In addition, the STEM program provides each student with free math software to play on their computers at home.

While the program uses various games to teach mathematical concepts, they are also educational and students cannot win until they solve the math equations.

The only complaint ever received about the game was that "my child spends too much time on his homework," Petersen noted.

The students held a small STEM EXPO to show their parents and any interested employees the various concepts they learned.

The expo provides students with a chance to focus on any topic of their choice and to practice their presentation skills.

"For ARDEC's outreach program," said Peterson, "STEM is a golden opportunity."