ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (Aug. 9, 2013) – Army engineers provided high school students a look into the science-related career paths available to them through advanced classroom instruction and hands-on experiments as part of an expanded Gains in the Education of Mathematics and Science program, known as GEMS, here, July 15-26.
U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command’s communications-electronics center, or CERDEC, engineers, with the assistance of local high school teachers and college students, led “Power and Energy” and “Network and Cyber” curricula to rising 11th and 12th grade students from all over the East Coast.
“GEMS provides students with an outstanding bridge between what we think of as gateway programs such as the CERDEC Summer Camp, and the more rigorous academic or lab experiences they will encounter as they continue their scholastic careers,” said Erica Bertoli, CERDEC Educational Outreach Program lead.
The CERDEC-led course was part of a larger Aberdeen Proving Ground GEMS program made possible through the collaboration of the Research, Development and Engineering Command’s Army Research Laboratory, the Communications-Electronics Command, the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense, the Army Test and Evaluation Command, the Army Materiel Systems Analysis Activity and CERDEC, hosted at the new Aberdeen Proving Ground STEM and Education Outreach Center. In it, students learned about various technologies and science-related occupations, as well as the work the Army is doing in those areas. They conducted in-class experiments to compliment the lessons.
The curriculum for the “Power and Energy” week was put together by engineers from the CERDEC Command, Power and Integration Directorate, Power Division, with a focus on renewable energy and kinetic energy.
“All these renewable energies are fairly new and it takes years to investigate and research to develop better, more reliable systems and these young kids are the future. That’s why I’m participating, to help keep them motivated and keep them up to speed,” said Cao Chung, CERDEC CP&I chemical engineer.
Students learned how to build a homemade battery and designed their own models for an alternative energy system.
“My passion is both automobiles, especially cars, and alternative energy,” said Kevin Duda, a 12th-grade student from Pennsylvania. “In the future I want to go into designing cars that are both powerful and fuel efficient. I know a lot about cars, but not a lot about fuel efficiency and energy like that, so I wanted to come to a program that would offer me the intellectual ability to learn about alternative energy.”
During the “Network and Cyber” week students learned about the intricacies of how networks operate, cybersecurity and digital forensics.
Local math and science teachers supported the program by adding the traditional classroom learning-environment, said Bertoli. They provided lesson recaps and asked questions to the students to help them understand complex subject matter.
“It’s good to interact with kids outside of the traditional classroom,” said Diane Sumutka, Joppatowne High School science teacher and Science Department chair. “It gave me an idea on different ways to structure classroom activities and different ways to approach material. It also gives the kids exposure to experts, and if nothing else, it allows us as classroom teachers to make connections in the workforce so that if I have a question about a topic that I’m not sure on I now have seven or eight subject experts that I could email.”
“Being a math teacher, I wanted to get a look at the scientific aspect of it and learn myself a little bit more about the science portion of it,” said Melissa Dorn, C. Milton Wright High School mathematics teacher and Harford Community College adjunct in mathematics. “Working with some really great kids in a non-traditional classroom setting was appealing to me.”
College science majors served as “near peers” for the students throughout the week to guide them through activities and provide advice on higher education.
“GEMS is exciting because we were able to provide students not only a hands on program with strong academic requirements, but also because the students work with a combination of professional teachers, college students and Aberdeen Proving Ground engineers and scientists,” said Bertoli. “Through this we are able to present many sides of [science, technology, engineering and math] and allow students a unique opportunity to interact on various levels in one program and to make the connection between classroom work and real-life application.”
The GEMS program also allows students to see the various job opportunities and specialty areas available to them within the science and math fields, said Bertoli.
“I like everything, so this is also helping me figure out what I’m most comfortable with and what I like the most,” said Katherine L. Allison, an 11th-grade student from Maryland, who participated in the GEMS program the past three summers. “I really like knowing what people actually do here. They aren’t just telling us random science stuff. This is what actually goes on. Because I think I might want a career here someday, so it’s really neat to actually talk to the people who really work here and get the real experience.”