(Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD) Hundreds of students tried on body armor and gas masks, examined a mannequin that serves as a casualty simulator, and navigated a robot used to inspect improvised explosive devices. Eight Army organizations from APG’s Edgewood Area hosted the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Educational Outreach Day on Sept. 23.
About 400 middle- and high-school students from Harford and Cecil counties explored 56 exhibits, as well as Army vehicles and mobile laboratories at Downer Hall.
Army Demonstrates Its High-Tech Credentials
One goal of the exhibits is to show students and teachers how the military is a leader in advanced research and development, Army officials said.
Louie Lopez, STEM outreach manager at the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, said APG is a tremendous resource to help students understand the real-world applications of their science and math subjects.
“It’s great to get students in the APG area to see the capabilities in research, science and technology that the Army has to offer,” Lopez said. “They can break the stigma about seeing a Soldier with boots, a uniform and an M-16.
“There is a lot of technology that happens behind the scenes. They see relevance to what they are studying in math and science in the classroom.”
Daniel Boehm, a field medical education specialist at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense, demonstrated a mannequin that simulates nerve-agent exposure and traumatic injuries.
“I hope students take away that the Army isn’t just about guns and bullets. We have medical providers, and we leverage the latest technology to provide the best training,” Boehm said.
Amber Steinhilber, a Havre de Grace Middle School student, said she was impressed how scientists protect Soldiers from chemical and biological agents.
“They were showing how you could test the masks to see if they work with the smoke. They have a wall of smoke that no one can see through except for the people on the other side,” Steinhilber said.
Careers In Science Are In Demand
Because of the robust job opportunities in STEM fields, whether in government or private industry, educators are encouraging their students to focus on science and math classes.
Sarah Voskuhl, coordinator of the Science and Mathematics Academy at Aberdeen High School, said students’ interaction with scientists is valuable for their future academic plans and careers.
“It gets them excited about STEM education. It allows them the ability to see what people are doing on a day-to-day basis,” Voskuhl said. “I’ve been encouraging students to ask, ‘What was your education that got you to this point?’
“It’s never too early to think about what I need to be studying even in high school to prepare me for college. What should I study in college that’s going to get me one of these really cool jobs that are right around the corner from where I live?”
Yvonne Gabriel, a science teacher at the Science and Mathematics Academy at Aberdeen High School, said the exposure to Army researchers allows students to connect their classes with real-world careers.
“Students don’t know that this is out there. They don’t know because of their age and lack of access what’s out for them to do in their future,” Gabriel said. “They get exposed to it, they get turned on to it, and teachers take that lead to help them learn more.”
Teachers said unless students’ parents work in a STEM field, they may not understand the benefits of those careers.
“They’ll have a better understanding of what’s available in their community and an understanding of where education can take you and what jobs are available. There are so many possibilities out there,” Voskuhl said.
Teachers Experience Real-Time Research
Educators also benefit when they are able to see how their classroom concepts translate into the latest research and development, teachers and Army leaders said.
“This is an opportunity for me to see what’s going on and to take the initiative of finding out more based on what students are interested in,” Gabriel said.
Lopez and Mary Doak, community and educational outreach manager at Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, said the exhibits help bring relevance to their daily teaching.
“The cutting-edge technology at APG is a great resource for teachers and educators in the community so they can really tie in that relevance about math and science concepts in the classroom and how it applies in the real world,” Lopez said.
Doak said teachers can use current trends in research they see at APG to bolster their curriculum.
“Some of the educators have never seen some of the vehicles, equipment and science experiments that are going on here today,” Doak said. “They are seeing things here today that have never been out in the field yet. They are looking at real-time research and development projects.”