By Carrie E. David, SMDC/ARSTRATSeptember 30, 2012
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. (Sept. 30, 2012) -- The U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command once again joined with other tenant organizations on Redstone Arsenal to show local area high school juniors the fun side of science.
During the all-day event, called Adventures in Engineering, on Sept. 26, the students were shuttled across the installation for briefings and demonstrations by various organizations including SMDC, NASA, the Missile Defense Agency, the Missile and Space Intelligence Center, and Aviation and Missile Research, Development, and Engineering Center, and even off the installation to the University of Alabama at Huntsville.
"Adventures in Engineering is a fantastic way for us to show the exciting opportunities the Army has for students," said third-year demonstrator Shannon Berry, operations and research analyst for SMDC's Future Warfare Center Innovative Ventures Office. "You don't have to wear a uniform to serve your country. That's one of the questions I get most often. I always emphasize how proud I am to serve my country and support the warfighter, while working in a field I love and doing things that are interesting and challenging. It's important to let these students know opportunities like the one I had are out there."
Stephanie Cleveland, an engineer in SMDC's Technical Center Concepts Analysis Lab, agrees.
"Adventures in Engineering is important for SMDC because it is growing our potential workforce," Cleveland said. "Government engineers and scientists tend to fall under a bad stereotype that is not appealing to younger generations. This gives SMDC an opportunity to change that stereotype and show students that SMDC can be a great place to work."
Cleveland, who has participated in the event for five years, said her favorite part of Adventures in Engineering is the excitement from the students.
"You can tell that many of the students view becoming an engineer or scientist as an unrealistic goal for their lives," Cleveland said. "When they see people not much older than themselves working on these amazing projects, they realize they can do the same."
Lindsay Ackridge, a junior at Buckhorn High School, said she enjoyed the demonstrations.
"I liked how they talked about how they analyze stuff and how it's hands-on," Ackridge said. "The demonstrations were really neat. I definitely want to major in engineering, and I would love to do something like that."
Kirsten Mullican, a junior at Hartselle High School, already knew she wanted to major in astrophysics, but said she really enjoyed the Simulation Center's demonstration.
"The 3-D printer was super awesome," she said. "It's really cool to be able to print a part to fix something that's broken and make it work again."
Cleveland and Berry both discuss some of the many entry points and scholarship programs available to math and science students in college. Berry advises students not to get tangled up trying to decide what to become.
"What I like to tell the students is that I'm a physicist employed as an analyst doing the work of an engineer," Berry said. "Any degree with a foundation in math, science, technology, or engineering can open up an array of possibilities with the Army and the government. You might not end up doing exactly what your degree is in, but that foundation in critical thinking is what's really important."
Cleveland's parting words to the students are to find what they love doing.
"The best advice I can give the students, is to figure out what they are passionate about, and then work hard to accomplish that dream," Cleveland said. "If you sit back and wait for life to just hand you opportunities, they will never come."