Gains in the Education of Mathematics and Science (GEMS) in the News

The Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG) GEMS program in Aberdeen, Maryland, was recently featured in Army Research Lab (ARL) and APG news. ARL, the Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense and the Communications-Electronics Research Development and Engineering Center have been working together for four years to offer science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs.


This summer, APG contractors introduced students to geographic information systems (GIS) among many other STEM areas. Marissa Yancone, a returning student participating in GEMS for grades 7-10, says she enjoys GEMS “because [students] get to learn about so many different STEM areas.”


GEMS is an Army-sponsored, summer program that exposes middle and high school students, who may not otherwise give serious thought to STEM, to mathematics and science career paths. Interested in learning more? Visit the GEMS page on our website.

Research & Engineering Apprenticeship Program (REAP) Scholar Receives Research Award

Congrats to our REAP scholar, Kennedi Ginger, a high school senior at Whitfield School in St. Louis, Missouri, who is a recipient of the 2017 Students and Teachers As Research Scientists (STARS) Award for Excellence in Research. STARS pairs high school students with local scientists to conduct undergraduate-level research projects.


Kennedi worked with Dr. Roberta Pineda from Washington University in St. Louis on her paper titled, “Feeding coordination problems in preterm and full-term infants.” She is one of 29 students, out of 96 who competed, who received recognition for research papers.


You can read more about her experience with STARS here.

Unite Summer Programs Have an Impact on Students Nationwide

RESTON, VA – The Technology Student Association (TSA), administrator of the Unite program for the Army Education Outreach Program (AEOP), is pleased to announce that more than 350 students spent the summer learning and engaging in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) at university Unite sites across the country.

Unite is a four-to-six week, pre-collegiate summer experience for talented high school students from groups historically underserved and underrepresented in STEM areas. Unite encourages students to pursue college majors and careers in STEM-related fields through a program of hands-on rigorous academics, enrichment, and career exploration.

“It [Unite] was amazing! I learned a lot about the different branches of engineering, which really helped me decide what career path I’d like to pursue,” said a student in Unite at Michigan Technological University. “Everything we did was extremely engaging and educational. It was a very memorable experience! The perfect mixture of learning and fun.”

Some university sites offered a broad academic experience for participants. Others provided a focus in specific STEM areas, such as coding, robotics, drone development, big data research, and gaming.

Summer 2017 Unite programs were held at the following universities:

Alabama State University (AL) Harris-Stowe State University (MO)
University of Colorado (CO) New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJ)
Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FL) University of New Mexico (NM)
Miami Dade College, Wolfson Campus (FL) University of Nevada, Las Vegas (NV)
Savannah State University (GA) Fayetteville State University (NC)
Xavier University of Louisiana (LA) University of Pennsylvania (PA)
Morgan State University (MD) Texas Southern University (TX)
Michigan Technological University (MI) Virginia Tech (VA)
Jackson State University (MS) Marshall University (WV)


2017 marked the fifth year of the Unite program under TSA’s direction. In October 2017, a Request for Proposal (RFP) will be released for the next funding cycle (2018-2019) of Unite sites. Institutions interested in submitting a proposal should contact Hillary Lee, Unite Program Administrator for AEOP, at


The Technology Student Association (TSA) is a national non-profit organization of middle and high school students engaged in STEM. TSA was chartered in 1978, and since then over 2,000,000 students have participated in its program of activities.

Members apply and integrate STEM concepts through competitive events, leadership endeavors, co-curricular activities, and related programs. 


Apprentices Take on Real Science and Engineering Research at SD Mines

By Sara Munro, Communications & Public Relations, Academy of Applied Science

Assisted by Dani Mason, Public Relations Officer, South Dakota School of Mines and Technology


The Research and Engineering Apprenticeship Program (REAP) gives high school students hands-on experience in research labs at 41 universities across the country. Three South Dakota students were thrilled to dive into research this summer at South Dakota School of Mines & Technology (SD Mines).


Sponsored by the Army Education Outreach Program, SD Mines REAP apprentices worked alongside faculty and graduate students to research and develop: 3-D-printed rocket propellant; fusion bonds to make lighter, more fuel-efficient parts for the automotive and aerospace industries; and titanium biomedical implants that combat the body’s rejection of foreign objects.


Each of these three student stories demonstrates the importance of collaboration within research teams. Students engaged in highly technical, exciting work and discovered how everyone, from apprentice to graduate student to principal investigator, plays a part in innovation.


Apprentice: Rebecca


During her SD Mines REAP experience, Stevens High School senior Rebecca Watts worked with her research team to 3-D print rocket propellant, looking at the burn characteristics, with the goal of eventually 3-D printing a rocket engine. Watts’ research was co-sponsored by the SD Space Grant Consortium. “I really had no idea how incredible 3-D printing can be, how helpful it can be. I can 3-D print things that are almost impossible to weld or put together any other way, so it opens up a whole realm of possibilities in the future,” Watts said.


Teamwork was instrumental. Watts joined the research team of Nicholas Ritchie, an industrial engineering sophomore; Sharla Glover, a mechanical engineering senior; Derek Neubert, a chemical engineering graduate student; and Lori Groven, Ph.D., a chemical and biological engineering assistant professor. Ultimately, the team wants to apply what they’ve discovered to 3-D print any object using energetic materials, which range from explosives and rocket fuels to gasoline and pyrotechnics.


Apprentice: Enrique

Central High School junior Enrique Mandas researched fusion bonding using a tool called an ultrasonic spot welder. This tool uses the energy from high-frequency vibrations to instantly fuse plastics together. The goal is to use this bonded plastic material, called polypropylene, to provide a lighter, more fuel-efficient alternative to the heavier metal parts currently used in? by? automotive and aerospace industries. Mandas focused specifically on optimizing the joining process of the plastic materials in order to create the strongest bond.


Mandas was struck by the power of a small task – welding plastics together – to transform two huge industries. “You become a changemaker once you become a scientist or engineer. You can discover something big that will change the world or something small that will change your life.” Mandas worked with mentors Joseph Newkirk, a mechanical engineering graduate student, and Cassandra Degen, Ph.D., a mechanical engineering assistant professor.


Apprentice: Grayson

Sturgis High School senior Grayson Nelson worked to optimize orthopedic implants, such as those used in shoulder and knee replacements. The problem with implants is they have a large surface area and are under constant tension in the body. To combat this, SD Mines researchers created titanium oxide nanotubes, essentially titanium rust, to coat the implant, thereby decreasing the surface area under tension and allowing the implant to better integrate with the body.


Nelson took the research even further with Jevin Meyerink, a biomedical engineering graduate student, and Grant Crawford, Ph.D., associate professor in materials and metallurgical engineering. They added a fluorescent biological organism onto the nanotube in order to pinpoint the exact location of the tension. Then, they sent samples of their findings to South Dakota State University researchers, who inserted an antibiotic into the nanotubes to combat the body’s rejection of the implant.


“[Previously], I did an internship at the VA Hospital, and I loved the medical aspect. But I also want to do research. At Mines, I integrated metallurgical, biological and chemical engineering, and now I want to get a biochemical degree and go into the medical field,” Nelson said.


Click here for more photos of this year’s SD Mines REAP students.


Get Involved in REAP

Across the United States, 118 high school students participated in REAP this year. Applications for students open in winter for summer placements. Learn more about REAP and the participating universities here. [link: REAP program page]

Army Educational Outreach Program (AEOP) Technical Symposia Travel Award Application

The AEOP Technical Symposia Travel Award is designed to encourage AEOP program participants and alumni to engage in scientific meetings/technical symposia to showcase their STEM research. Participation in scientific meetings/technical symposia will expand and enrich current AEOP students’ educational experiences by interacting and networking with STEM professionals in the field, exploring a variety of STEM disciplines and careers, gaining experience in communicating their research accomplishments, and serving as AEOP ambassadors. Additionally, it will provide AEOP alumni to reconnect with AEOP, present their current research or research conducted while with AEOP at technical symposia.

Information for applicants

The AEOP Technical Symposia Award application is fully electronic. Read the information below, then start your application. We encourage all eligible AEOP participants and alumni who have a scholarly paper, poster, or other creative scholarly work that has been accepted for a professional conference to apply for a travel award.

Award Information

The travel award is for support to present your research at a professional technical symposia. The amount of the award is based on expenses incurred. Each award amount will be determined based on the expense summary you submit with your application. Funding will be disbursed in advance of travel date.

* Due to limits in funding, we do not typically fund travel outside North America.


Current and alumni AEOP participants in any of the programs within the AEOP portfolio who have a paper, poster, or other STEM-based research/scholarly work that has been accepted for national professional presentation may apply. Participants may apply to present their current research or research that they’ve conducted during their participation in AEOP.

Eligible Budget Expenses

• Registration fees for conference or creative exhibition.

• Travel fees: plane fares, train fares, car rental, ground transportation.

• Lodging: up to, but not exceeding, the federal maximum per diem rate (

• Food: up to, but not exceeding, the federal per diem rate.

• The award may NOT be used to cover individual membership dues for professional organizations or societies.

For minors under the age of 18, travel expenses (airfare, lodging, food) will be covered for the presenter and one parent/legal guardian.

Application Process

Applications are accepted and reviewed on a continuing basis and must be submitted, including a letter of recommendation from a faculty mentor or Department of Defense (DoD) mentor (scientist or engineer at DoD research lab or center) familiar with your research discipline, at least six weeks prior to departure date. Funds will be disbursed at least two weeks prior to travel date.

To receive a link to the online application, please contact your AEOP administrator.




GEMS Jarod Phillips



UNITE Hillary Lee





Selection Criteria

Selection criteria for these awards include: overall quality of the application and the importance of participation in the conference/venue to the applicant’s long-term goals as articulated in the applicant’s statement.


Awardees are expected to submit a brief summary statement about their conference experience. Awardees are also expected to provide credits to AEOP in their presentation and promote the program where permissible.

If you have any questions, contact Dr. Stephanie Johnson at

Application Information

Please be prepared to include the following information in the CVENT application tool:

• First Name

• Last Name

• Email address

• Phone number

• Street address

• City

• State

• Zip

• If under 18, name of parent/guardian who will be traveling with you.

• Are you currently a student? Yes/No

• If yes, school name.

• If yes, year in school.

• Which AEOP did you participate in?

• Name of mentor

• Email address of mentor

• Letter of support from mentor (upload file)

• Name of conference you wish to attend with this award.

• Location of conference you wish to attend with this award.

• Dates you will attend conference you wish to attend with this award.

• Will you be presenting a paper, poster or an oral session?

• Abstract

• Title of paper, poster or presentation

• Names of co-presenters, if applicable

• In 200 words or less, please describe why attending this conference will help you achieve your professional and/or academic goals.

• Total amount of funds requested:

• Expense summary: Provide an estimate of expenses for presenter and parent/guardian, if applicable. Include airfare, lodging, per diem, ground transportation, and registration (for presenter only).


Request for Proposals: Colleges & Universities

AEOP and the Academy of Applied Science are seeking colleges and universities to host the Research and Engineering Apprenticeship Program for summer 2018. Through REAP, host schools have the opportunity to enhance the lives of underrepresented high school students and expose them to STEM education. Proposals are due August 18, 2017- contact for more information.





Summer STEM to Penn

By Daniel Miller-Uueda, UNITE Site Director, GRASP Laboratory, University of Pennsylvania


In 2014, the University of Pennsylvania accepted its first class of Philadelphia public school students into the UNITE Summer Mentorship Program (SMP) in Robotics Leadership.  As we enter our fourth summer of UNITE programming, we want to pause and honor those students from our inaugural class who will be entering their first year of college this fall. They will be attending such institutions as Drexel University, Georgia Tech, Penn State, University of Pittsburgh, Howard University and Temple University, to name a few.


UNITE is a four-to six-week summer experience for talented high school students historically underrepresented and underserved in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). UNITE encourages students to pursue college majors and careers in STEM-related fields through hands-on academics, enrichment and career exploration, while studying at some of the nation’s top colleges and universities.


One of those students, Anthony, will be staying on at the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn), joining the prestigious engineering program as a freshman in September. Entering an Ivy League engineering program was not a forgone conclusion for Anthony. When he started with UNITE, he was a quiet, rather shy, young man attending Carver High School in north Philadelphia who had dreams of becoming a software engineer. With little exposure to the field and a limited number of STEM courses offered at his school, he wasn’t sure whether he would be able to make his dreams become a reality. Thanks to his school guidance counselor, Anthony connected with the UNITE-SMP robotics program.


Through the UNITE-SMP robotics program, Anthony spent two summers building and programming robots that could complete autonomous tasks. He visited research facilities at Boeing and Lockheed Martin and received career advice from Army, Navy and industry engineers. Anthony successfully designed and developed a robot that could detect color-coded crates of waste and push them into disposal zones. The project was inspired by search and rescue applications that are common in robotics research.


UPenn’s UNITE-SMP robotics program is jointly funded by AEOP and UPenn’s Summer Mentorship Program. Each summer, 18 ninth and tenth grade students from Philadelphia’s public schools engage in a four-week deep dive into the world of robotics. Students learn about circuits, programming, CAD, engineering design, sensors and control systems. The program operates out of UPenn’s GRASP Laboratory, a premier academics and research center in robotics designed for student groups historically underrepresented in STEM fields.


The UNITE-SMP program embodies the same philosophy that makes many higher education laboratories such a unique and powerful place for innovation and groundbreaking research. Through UNITE, students like Anthony are given open-ended, inquiry-based, rigorous problems that require computational thinking to solve. Undergraduate and graduate mentors assist the students as they work through these problems and learn how to troubleshoot, analyze data, develop creative solutions and present conclusions to an audience of their peers.


For his final UNITE assignment, Anthony was asked to identify the one person he wanted to meet and list the questions he would ask him or her. For Anthony, that person was SpaceX founder and Tesla CEO Elon Musk. His question: “Once you make the decision to become self-employed, at what point do you change your focus from changing your own life to improving the lives of others?”

STEM-in-Action at its Best: Students Turn Ideas into Reality

Dimetrius Simon

NSTA Communications Coordinator for AEOP


When it comes to student-focused science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) projects in eCYBERMISSION, the possibilities are limitless. eCYBERMISSION is a web-based STEM competition free to students in grades six through nine. Teams of three or four students identify community-based problems or inquiries and then construct explanations or design solutions. Students compete for state, regional and national awards.

However, one of the most unique elements of the eCYBERMISSION experience is that student groups take their ideas and solutions outside of the competition and into the real world. As a result, the story of a team’s project can continue long beyond the national awards season—with the potential to create real change in their communities.

One such example occurred during the 2013-14 eCYBERMISSION competition. Team advisor Laura Tenorio and her ninth grade student team, called the Crabyotics, from the rural community of Taos, New Mexico, developed a bio-filter system that successfully removes antibiotic drugs from drinking water and addresses environmental and clean water challenges many communities face after residents flush or pour antibiotic drugs down the drain in their homes. It also helps to prevent the growth of drug-resistant bacteria.

The Crabyotics’ four team members used the resources available in their middle school science lab to research and then create the filter solution they had in mind. With guidance from Tenorio, the students tested their invention, and determined that it not only worked, but was also cost-effective. It even qualified for a patent. The team created a business plan for the development of their bio-filter system community project, and competed in local science fairs and competitions.

But the story didn’t end there. The Crabyotics team won the prestigious STEM-In-Action Grant, a $5,000 grant eCYBERMISSION awards to outstanding projects so that student teams can further implement their STEM projects in their local community.

Years later, one of the Crabyotics team members continues work on the grant with the help of two eCYBERMISSION alumni from other student teams. This new team has added to the success of the Crabyotics’ invention with a second filter using laboratory-honed chitosan (a linear polysaccharide composed of randomly distributed β–linked D-glucosamine and N-acetyl-D-glucosamine) as an absorption media for pharmaceuticals from water sources. They continue to gather more sponsors to support the implementation of their idea through entries in the International Science and Engineering Fair and the Science Talent Search. This year, the students also plan to compete in BioGenius and AEOP’s Junior Science and Humanities Symposia (JSHS).

It’s an incredible story. And yet, there are many more like it. Programs like eCYBERMISSION are remarkable because the benefits they bring to students, parents, teachers and communities are exponential. One mentor inspires four students to explore their passion and talents in STEM, and then those students develop and implement a solution addressing a real problem affecting their own neighbors and community. Years later, that success creates a ripple effect, allowing additional students to build on that solution and embark on their own STEM journey. All the while, each student is better prepared to thrive in school and, one day, pursue an exciting career path, whether in STEM or beyond. Of course, as a side benefit, they are also improving their communities!

Months or years from now, what student STEM projects will we see changing lives? Learn more about enrolling or becoming an advisor for eCYBERMISSION, and visit to learn more about AEOP STEM-in-Action Grants.

Sowing the Seeds for Big Ideas


By Alaina Rutledge
Director of Education
National Inventors Hall of Fame


I recently had the chance to meet the brilliant inventor JD Albert, one of the creators of E Ink, the technology which is commonly used in e-readers like the Kindle. Not only is Albert a profound inventor—and one of the youngest inventors to be admitted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame—he also made smart business and marketing decisions that led to his company’s far-reaching success.


At the National Inventors Hall of Fame’s Camp Invention® program, we like to share stories like JD’s with students as they create their own inventions. Like all inventors, given the right space and support, children can to turn their ideas into reality. We’re careful to choose partners that share our vision and also provide high-quality experiences and learning that can take our budding inventors to the next level. That’s where our partnership with AEOP comes in.


Part of the AEOP portfolio of programs, Camp Invention is an exciting, weeklong summer adventure with activities that explore connections between science, technology, engineering and innovation aimed at grade schoolers. Local district educators facilitate the activities and enthusiastic high school students serve as Leadership Interns, ensuring that one staff member is in place for every eight children. Throughout the week, children rotate through various modules that encourage them to work together, seek solutions to real-world problems and sharpen critical skills. But Camp Invention is about more than tinkering.


We know that learning how to do technical work, such as mastering prototyping skills, for example, is just as important as mindset, so we encourage our students to set goals. At first blush, this may sound too advanced for elementary age students. But at Camp Invention, we show children how to build prototypes using materials like cardboard, tape, motors, pulleys, LED lights and parts from broken machines. We have found that even though the concepts are fairly advanced, when we place children in situations where they can explore these concepts in engaging ways, they excel. While they’re having fun, they’re also learning about design engineering, intellectual property and entrepreneurship. Children take ownership and discover that their ideas are useful and some even have market value.


Through our STEM activities, children are exploring their entrepreneurial spirit and also the potential impact an invention can have for users beyond its original intent—a concept that is very important to the wider science and business communities. When Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, he never imagined people would one day expand on the technology and we’d have smart phones. Invention also means sharing ideas, collaborating and thinking through the possibilities.


This year, with continued support, we are expanding Camp Invention to underserved and underrepresented students in Alabama, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Mexico and Texas. But far too many kids still do not have access to these inspiring STEM and entrepreneurship experiences. The National Inventors Hall of Fame would like to challenge others to help us provide environments for children to experiment with making, prototyping and entrepreneurship. We know that with the right environment, tools and guidance, children can become great inventors and plant ideas to harvest in the future.


A-Ha! Failure and Success in the Classroom

By Stewart Wood, TSA Chapter Advisor


I have been a teacher for 23 years. In that time, I have found that there is nothing quite like working through a problem that generates that “a-ha” moment for students. It’s one of the reasons that after over two decades in the classroom, I am still passionate about being an educator.

For more than half my time as an educator, my classroom has also been a Junior Solar Sprint (JSS) site. JSS is a STEM program focused on exposing 5th through 8th grade students to ever-expanding science and technology fields including alternative fuels, engineering design and aerodynamics. Sponsored by AEOP and administered by the Technology Student Association (TSA), JSS attracts students to compete from across the country. My students use teamwork and problem-solving skills to design and build solar-powered cars. That means I witness “a-ha!” moments on a daily basis.

My students’ experiences with JSS have further reinforced my view of the importance of teaching problem solving. Students enjoy working with their hands and collaborating with friends on problems.  Each group of students will establish a rank and file with the student best suited for a job taking the lead in that area and allowing those better suited to another part to carry that ball. There is conflict, challenge and even failure. But the students work through it, depending on their own inclinations, what they’ve learned and each other. They also learn which goals are “lofty” and unreachable and which are reasonable. They quickly find that if they jump into the project without first studying it, they will fail and have to start over. The moment when they figure out just the right combination of adjustments that makes the vehicle’s wheels spin like a jet shooting down the runway to take off—that’s incredibly rewarding.

As a teacher, it’s wonderful to weave excitement into my classroom. Of course, I think STEM topics are incredibly stimulating, but not all of my students agree at the start. Some take a bit of convincing. Being able to teach with the goal of creating the fastest, most interesting, and best crafted solar-vehicle possible assures my students of some serious fun.

But more than just fun, these activities are creating new possibilities for kids from all academic and socio-economic backgrounds. Our school is located in a community with a high proportion of low-income households. Between 93-97 percent of our students qualify as Title I. JSS facilitates career preparation and goal setting in these students in ways that other more cost-prohibitive programs or projects would not. By the time the students have completed their vehicle, they have worn the hat of many occupations: engineer, designer, graphic artist, machinist, manufacturer and manager.

The most important lesson that we take away is that when you approach a problem, you can take many different paths to reach the end of the journey. Students learn they shouldn’t give up if the first try—or second, or third—doesn’t lead to the outcome they wanted.

In my opinion there is no better way, outside of being on the job, to teach a student to understand what a career really is than to immerse them in real-world application, as we do in our JSS project. Problem-solving teaches students to be resilient and to look both inward and to their peers for the right tools. I can’t think of a more important life skill.