Monthly Archives: November 2017

AEOP Strategic Outreach Initiatives

Open Request for Information (RFI) for Partnership Opportunity with AEOP

 

PURPOSE/OBJECTIVE: The U.S. Army Educational Outreach Program (AEOP) through its cooperative agreement (COA) with Battelle is investigating new and innovative ways to form mutually beneficial relationships with likeminded organizations and technical associations that have similar STEM goals, specifically serving students from underserved populations and military dependents. In collaboration with STEM partners and by sharing information, leveraging strong STEM networks, and building on already existing relationships, AEOP intends to promote its portfolio of opportunities to better meet objectives, maximize impact, and provide more enriching STEM opportunities for students.

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Rediscovering STEM Through the Eyes of My GEMS Students

By Jordan Edmond

Every summer, students in fifth through 11th grade come from varying regions, with varying levels of experience and unique interests to spend an entire week on a military base. For this week, they are all scientists and engineers, experiencing firsthand what a military-grade laboratory has to offer. Gains in the Education of Mathematics and Science (GEMS) is an Army-sponsored, summer STEM enrichment program for middle and high school students that sparks and develops interest in STEM among young people who otherwise might not give serious thought to these careers. With access to the latest technology and professional STEM practices, the GEMS student experience is completely different from what most students see in an average classroom setting.

I know this from experience, because I was once one of those excited students. When I was in fifth grade, I participated in GEMS at the U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory in Fort Rucker, Ala. Now, all these years later, I’m experiencing that excitement again through the eyes of my students. As a GEMS Near Peer Mentor (NPM) at the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, I can relive the wonder of a student witnessing amazing science in practice.

Back when I was a fifth-grade student at Fort Rucker’s military air base, the curriculum was geared toward engineering and robotics. I remember how I would lose track of time while coding programs for our robots, running to watch the code in action as the robots moved and climbed. Our mentors, who were all college students or recent graduates, would give talks during lunch, giving us all a glimpse into college life. Hearing from peers who were a little wiser but still our contemporaries made those college prep talks exciting. They helped us consider our options, showing us what we could look forward to in classes, introducing us to the different majors we could consider, from dentistry to mechanical engineering to biology.

Years later, here I am at the Alabama School of Math and Science, preparing to go into the field of computer programming, taking classes like Advanced Placement Computer Science, Data Analysis and Python. I was excited when I arrived at Fort Sam Houston this summer and saw the types of robots the students would get to work with. As an NPM, I’m able to teach those students and further my learning at the same time. I remember watching one of my first groups of middle schoolers as they nervously gathered for their first tour of the facility, their classrooms suddenly transformed from rows of desks and chairs to massive machines. There’s a constant motion of scientists flocking back and forth. It’s not what they’re used to seeing in their typical classroom setting, but that is the beauty of a GEMS experience.

I see myself in the students that I mentor. I can see the gleam in their eyes as they learn about what the scientists are creating. Different GEMS campuses offer unique curriculum bases, and at this building students were focused primarily on the human body, its functions and how we work to repair it. Whether we’re studying animal cells in hopes of finding a cure for diseases or sitting in the dentist’s chair working on molars, students are naturally curious about how things are applied in “real life.” GEMS harnesses this curiosity and turns it into a passion and focus for students who are eager to learn, while connecting them to professionals.

Beyond the reward of inspiring students, NPMs have so much to gain. School teachers work with one class each year, but while I’m here, I get to bond with four groups in a month’s time, which allows for plenty of experience with a variety of kids at an accelerated pace. Like a teaching assistant in college, NPMs can work with students and develop curricula for courses.

The best way to learn is through experience, and that is what the GEMS program creates. Whether it’s studying cures to diseases or working on molars, there is constant motion and growth. In small groups, students get to perform and seek answers to everyday tasks. In larger groups, teachers and NPMs alike work with professionals in their fields, connecting with individuals who are accomplishing incredible things in careers they are passionate about. At the end of the week, on graduation day, I can guarantee the students are already planning to apply again for next year. I know I was.

NPM and resource teacher applications are now open for GEMS. Visit www.usaeop.com/programs.

Native Youth Embrace Junior Solar Sprint

Each year, the Florida Governor’s Council on Indian Affairs (FGCIA) hosts a summer camp for Native youth hailing from across the state. The Florida Indian Youth Program is designed to expose youth to subjects they might not otherwise have the chance to experience. Students spend two weeks taking classes at Tallahassee Community College, Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University and Florida State University. Classes cover traditional Native artistry, such as basket weaving, as well as the latest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

 

This past summer, the Governor’s Council added a bit of competition to the camp experience. Junior Solar Sprint (JSS), sponsored by the Army Educational Outreach Program and the Technology Student Association, is a solar car competition for fifth- through eighth-grade students. Students design, build and race solar powered cars using hands-on engineering skills and principles of science and math. They develop teamwork and problem-solving abilities and investigate important environmental issues.

 

FGCIA invited local business owner and advocate Shawna Newman to lead the instruction. Newman, a Chickasaw native, was excited about running the program. Through her business, The NDN Companies, she had been working with FGCIA to bring more opportunities to Native youth throughout Florida.

 

Newman and her students took a unique approach to JSS; to further customize their cars from the standard kit pieces they received; she took her students dumpster diving at a local teacher supply recycle center. Students used what they found to decorate, personalize and test their cars. Just as important, students were able to use their unique strengths to contribute to each part of the process, from finding materials to building and racing. They even strengthened conflict resolution skills as they worked in small teams to test their vehicles. Though some students were initially apprehensive, JSS ended up being a favorite activity for many students in the camp.

 

In honor of Native American Heritage Month, we celebrate—this month and year-round—programs that support Native youth. The Florida Indian Youth Program works with 40 to 50 students each year. FGCIA, The NDN Companies, and other organizations have been working to get Florida youth, especially Native Florida youth, more involved in STEM. They have partnered with Girls Inc., the Society of American Military Engineers (SAME) Panama City Post and schools located in rural areas to expand their reach.

 

For more information on JSS, visit the “Programs” page on our website.

From Mentee to Mentor: Apprenticeships Come Full Circle for REAP Mentor Dr. Bayne

Mentoring apprentices is a full circle for Stephen Bayne, Ph.D., associate chair for graduate studies and professor at Texas Tech University. Among his many positions at Texas Tech and previously at the Army Research Laboratory, one that he treasures most is that of mentor to high school students in the Research and Engineering Apprenticeship Program (REAP).

Bayne’s education and career paths, as he reports, were a non-traditional. He came to the United States at age 17 and later joined the Air Force, where he served in the Civil Engineering Squadron. He went to school to earn his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and worked a retail job at night. Along the way, one of his professors saw promise in him and offered Bayne a job in his lab under one condition: that Bayne continue his education to a master’s degree. This opportunity allowed Bayne to quit his retail job and focus solely on engineering, specifically power electronics, one of the fields that had funding during the ‘90s economic crash. Power electronics are used to control and transfer energy at high efficiency. Systems such as solar, wind and hybrid electric vehicles all use power electronics for power transfer and control, relying on what are called solid state switches to modulate the power flow. These solid state switches must be able to block high voltage, conduct high current and switch at high frequency. This work led him to earn a Ph.D. in electrical engineering, positions in the Navy Research Lab and eventually the role of branch chief at the Army Research Laboratory in Adelphi.

While working on some of the most cutting-edge research in powering satellites, solid state electronics and power electronics, Bayne promised himself he would go back to a university setting. Once again, Texas Tech came through and he returned as a tenure-track professor and member of the Center for Pulse Power and Power Electronics. Back in Texas, Bayne reached out to the Army and started the REAP program at TTU. Since the inception of the program, 31 high school student apprentices have participated. “Apprentices come with some interest in engineering and through the program gain hands-on experience and excitement to continue their work in engineering,” explains Bayne. “We teach them some background knowledge and then design experiments that challenge them to learn more.”  The program is also strongly supported by TTU’s electrical and computer engineering department.

REAP is one of three apprenticeship programs offered by the Army Educational Outreach Program. Forty-one universities across the country host REAP through 150 mentors. This number is sure to grow with the help Bayne, who is encouraging one of his former graduate students, now an assistant professor at another university, to apply to become a REAP mentor.

AEOP is now accepting applications for all of its apprenticeship programs. Visit http://www.usaeop.com/programs to learn more and apply.