By Joyce M. Conant, Army Research LaboratoryApril 1, 2013
ADELPHI, Md. (April 1, 2013) -- Employees from the U.S. Army Research Laboratory provided support to this year's Maryland Junior Science and Humanities Symposium and the Collegiate Research Symposium, held at the BWI Hilton Hotel in Linthicum, Md., on March 8-9.
The Maryland Junior Science and Humanities Symposium, or MD JSHS, is a regional competition conducted under the auspices of the national Junior Science and Humanities Symposia Program and is aimed at promoting research and experimentation in the sciences, engineering, and mathematics at the high school level. The program also publicly recognizes students for outstanding achievement and effort.
On day one, Steve Taulbee, Weapons and Materials Research Directorate, or WMRD; Mark Mentzer, Ph.D., and Sarah Coard, both from Survivability/Lethality Analysis Directorate, or SLAD; and Peter Plostins, Ph.D., WMRD, served as judges in their specialty areas judging poster and oral presentations presented by the high school students. Specialty areas included engineering, math, physical science, aerospace, medicine, health, behavioral health, environmental science, earth science, space, biology, life science, and physics.
"This event is one of the premier STEM outreach events in the Mid-Atlantic Region, offering a great opportunity to reinforce and encourage students in the region to engage in science, technology, engineering, and math education, and set their sights on future technical career paths," said Taulbee. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, mathematics.
Plostins volunteered to help mentor the young students.
"I think it is essential to foster a new generation of scientists and engineers for viability and foundation of the United States," said Plostins.
Those who judged the collegiate portion on day two included Taulbee; Dr. Muthuvel Murgan, Vehicle Technology Directorate; Anthony Ries, Human Research and Engineering Directorate; James Nealon, SLAD; Coard; and James Carroll, Ph.D., Sensors and Electron Devices Directorate.
Nealon volunteered to support the MD JSHS as a judge for three main reasons.
"The first reason is to show our students that we take their effort and work seriously, and encourage this work, by listening and interviewing the students the same way we interact with our technical peers," said Nealon. "The students get a taste of what it means to do peer-reviewed research and also to be able to present and defend a position.
"We treat them as junior colleagues, by appearing in professional dress and by asking good (and challenging) questions," Nealon continued. "For many students, this may be the first time they meet a scientific or engineering professional. Not all of them may want to continue in science or engineering; however, the ability to define a question, do research and defend your results is invaluable for whatever they grow up to do. We owe it to them to be supportive, challenging and encouraging, because this is how we can lead by our example and help them learn an important life skill."
"The second reason is to look for talented people to replace me someday," Nealon explained. "One of the main themes used in JSHS is the need for community outreach, but our effort involves far more than this. As a judge (JSHS, or other competitions), I 'scout the minor leagues' for talent, inspiration, and determination. These are the kind of talented, determined people that I want to take my place as S&E [science and engineer] professionals, senior technicians or master artisans. We owe it to our predecessors to find, nurture, and bring in the best talent to improve our organizations; they did this for us, now it's our turn to do it for our future.
"We can't predict the next set of breakthroughs, but we can assemble the types of talent who can make the breakthroughs happen," Nealon said. "We can also bring in the people with the drive and determination to take the breakthroughs and put them in the field so our Soldiers can make best use of new technology. We can start this at all grade levels by showing that it's OK to be smart; that science and math are useful for more than schoolwork; and that you can make a fulfilling, rewarding career in science or technology."
"The third reason is for encouragement and rejuvenation by the JSHS students," he said. "We work the leading edges of S&T [science and technology], and we encounter numerous stumbling blocks, failures or delays. It's very draining to work leading edges and face what seem to be continuous failures or problems. The JSHS students bring in their own sets of problems, but also bring new ideas and a fresh sense of enthusiasm and curiosity. Their enthusiasm and boundless energy lets me recharge and be able to handle my own problems with a better heart."
The two-day event concluded with a closing awards banquet where the high school and college level winners were recognized.
The Aberdeen Proving Ground team that provided support to the MD JSHS included staff from ARL, U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command, U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command STEM, Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center, Directorate of Public Works Environmental, U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, Garrison School Liaison Office, U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command STEM, and the U.S. Army Public Health Command.
"The [Aberdeen Proving Ground] team continues its commitment to work together with industry, academia, and the local community to prepare students kindergarten through college for the opportunities that will become available to them in the STEM fields," said Erica Bertoli, event coordinator, Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center STEM Outreach. "Aberdeen Proving Ground is a diverse team made up of a wide range of STEM expertise and capabilities supporting the Soldier."