News

GEMS AND CAMP INVENTION ALUM BECOMES ONE OF PRESIDENT OBAMA’S KID SCIENCE ADVISORS

GEMS and Camp Invention alumnus Khristian Ward received special recognition from President Obama last month for proposing a valuable STEM solution to a problem plaguing thousands of veterans every year.

In his search for Kid Science Advisors, the president recently invited students from around the country to submit STEM projects and inventions. President Obama received more than 2,500 submissions, but selected only 11 of these students, including Khristian, to meet with him personally at the White House as his Kid Science Advisors. A fifth grader from Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., Khristian proposed creating a brain microchip to help soldiers overcome PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), an idea inspired by his own father’s experience with PTSD after two Army deployments in Iraq. “I want to help him and other soldiers like my dad,” Khristian said. He also submitted an idea for lighter body armor to help soldiers avoid back problems.

While Khristian’s winning submission incorporated military science, his dream is to study aerospace and space exploration. In fact, Khristian visits the Goddard Space Flight Center near his home every month to launch model rockets.

Read all about Khristian’s groundbreaking ideas and his exciting meeting with the Commander-in-Chief! Keep up the great work, Khristian!

A School-Work STEM Balance that Works!

katherine“Sign me up!” This was Katherine Clohan’s immediate reaction to a GEMS flyer encouraging local students and professionals interested in teaching science to kids as a Near-Peer Mentor (NPM).

Gains in the Education of Math and Science (GEMS) incorporates very talented and dedicated students that work as NPM’s each summer. Katherine, a graduate student working toward a Chemistry degree at Auburn University, has always found serenity with a school-work balance.

During Katherine’s second year as a NPM this past summer, she taught neuroscience and forensics to sixth and seventh graders. It was rewarding for Katherine to work with some of the underprivileged kids. For some, science meant reading out of a text book.

“I had a lot of kids this year that saw how science was fun and full of cool things,” said Katherine. “Because the students had that hands-on experience, they saw that science was more than just reading out of a book.”

Katherine had a pivotal moment in her college career while working as an NPM. She initially went to college deciding to be a doctor, then discovered through GEMS that her calling was chemistry and teaching.

“I told the kids you might have a plan now and figured out, but you’ll get to college or you’ll find something else and all your plans go out the window,” says Katherine. “It’s OK. It’s OK to have your world completely turned upside down. Just find something you are happy doing.”

Even though Katherine’s doctorate program is 4-5 years long, she’d love to continue with GEMS by writing a curriculum, working with kids for a week, or even being a speaker during one of the GEMS workshops.

katherine2This same inspiration has kept Katherine’s work-school balance going. This past summer during her neuroscience workshop, kids dissected a cow’s eye. When most students were done in 15 minutes, they were anxious to pull everything apart. For one student, however, dissecting a cow’s eye gave him a new awareness. The student realized he found something that he loved.

According to Katherine, the students enter GEMS expecting a normal experience until they find an experiment or hear from a STEM professional that connects the student with science.

“Their eyes light up and now they can’t wait to tell mom about it,” said Katherine. “That’s what makes it good for me because I now know that I’ve successfully passed on my love for science.”

Outside of Katherine’s busy work-school life, she enjoys reading, road trips with her best friend, and her new furry edition, a cat named Mendeleev.

Hopkins Student and Mentor Go the Extra Mile

Shawn in laboratoryShawn Abraham’s visual impairment doesn’t stop him from learning as much as he can. A junior at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt, MD, Abraham used his summer vacation to delve deeper into the world of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

Abraham, who is blind, completed over 200 hours of work at the Hopkins Extreme Materials Institute (HEMI) at Johns Hopkins University (JHU) as part of AEOP’s Research & Engineering Apprenticeship Program (REAP), a summer program that places talented high school students from groups historically under represented and underserved in STEM into research apprenticeships.

Abraham and his REAP mentor, JHU postdoctoral Fellow Kavan Hazeli, Ph.D., had the idea to study different resin composites to substitute what is currently used in tooth cavity fillings, as the current composite attracts bacteria and therefore requires patients to replace fillings. While this was a new field to Abraham, he welcomed the challenge with enthusiasm. Along the way, he discovered a new interest in mechanical engineering. He explained that the ability to study hands-on how different materials behave was particularly meaningful because it is applicable to a real-world challenge. “This experience has exposed me to so many different fields and types of projects in engineering,” said Abraham.

Abraham and Hazeli said creativity was key in their summer research. Over the course of six weeks, Hazeli came up with several creative ways to teach Abraham fundamental science and engineering principals by combining special kits and braille graphs. They wore gloves to feel different materials, and used the University of Maryland dental school laboratory for testing.

Kavan and Shawn learning about atomic structure“I could only choose two applicants out of 44. Shawn’s statement of purpose clearly indicated a desire to learn,” said Hazeli. As a mechanical engineer, Hazeli believes it’s important to make himself available to whomever is passionate about STEM and research.

Before his experience at HEMI, Abraham, who is also on his school’s wrestling team, had some exposure to advanced science through his physics class, but shared that REAP taught him “so much more” and has played an important part in his desire to become an engineer.

Victor Nakano, Ph.D., HEMI executive program director, applauded both Abraham and Hazeli for their superb collaboration over the summer. “They each truly went the extra mile to make the most out of the apprenticeship.”

For more information about AEOP’s apprenticeship programs, go to www.usaeop.com/programs.

Meet Jonathan Gonzales, GEMS Near-Peer Mentor

jonathan-2

Jonathan Gonzalez, a junior studying mechanical engineering at Auburn University, has spent the past three summers mentoring students from grades 5-12 in STEM with Gains in the Education of Math and Science (GEMS), a STEM-enriching program offered through the Army Educational Outreach Program.

Most recently, as a Near-Peer Mentor (NPM) with GEMS, Gonzales taught students basic concepts of nano-technology. Working at the Fort Rucker, Ala. GEMS site, Gonzales and other NPMs incorporated examples of real-world careers into their projects and invited guest speakers to inspire and motivate students.

The majority of mentors that Gonzales worked with at Fort Rucker went to high school together, making their GEMS mentoring experience even more rewarding—for them and for the students they mentor. “At GEMS, it doesn’t feel like a job,” said Gonzales. “It’s great working with other mentors that share my interest and seeing the students become more passionate about STEM.”jonathan

When Gonzales isn’t busy with school work or GEMS, he’s enjoying his love of music. He is a member of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Fraternity of America, a collegiate music fraternity that advances music through community outreach and concerts. Interestingly, he sees some similarity between this outreach and GEMS. In both, he is all about sharing his passion with the hope of inspiring and educating others.

Want to get involved with GEMS or any other AEOP program? Visit our program page: http://www.usaeop.com/programs/.

AEOP Featured on Discovery Channel

Big news! We are excited to share that the Army Educational Outreach Program was featured on the Discovery Channel’s NewsWatch for their Tech Report Back to School episode, which aired this morning on TV and online. The AEOP segment features students and mentors across AEOP programs in action, highlighting for a national stage the importance of providing real-world STEM experiences for all.

Watch the clip here, and be sure to share it on social media tagging @USAEOP and using #newswatchtv!

JSHS Teachers Receives Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

Cary James, a JSHS science teacher in Maine, and Jeffrey Wehr from Washington will be two of the 213 mathematics and science teachers to receive the prestigious Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.  Every year, the White House presents this honor to outstanding K-12 science and math teachers nationwide who have showed exemplary success in ensuring students are equipped with the science and math skills to succeed.

James is the head of the science department at Bangor High School, where he mentors students through JSHS. For the past 17 years, James has taught Advanced Placement, Honors, and Credit Recovery Chemistry classes to 10th–12th grade students. He has received numerous teaching awards throughout his career including the Siemens Award for Advanced Placement Teacher of the Year (Maine 2009), Pulp and Paper Foundation Maine Teacher Award (2009), the Francis Crowe Society Honorary Engineering Degree from the University of Maine (2010) and New England Institute of Chemistry Maine State Teacher Award (2011) just to name a few.

Wehr has been a scientist and educator for the past 19 years. He has spent the last 12 years at Odessa High School, where he teaches Integrated Science, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Computer Programming, and Advanced STEM Research Laboratory. Over the course of his career he has earned the Department of Education’s American Star of Teaching Award, the Washington State Regional Teacher of the Year, the National Siemens Founder’s Award for STEM Research, and the National Junior Science and Humanities STEM Research Award.

On September 8, all recipients of this award will gather for a formal award ceremony in Washington, DC. The winners, who were selected by a panel of distinguished and accomplished scientists, mathematicians and educators, will all receive a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation to be used at their discretion.

Congratulations, Mr. James and Mr. Wehr!

 

AEOP Expands Community of Partners to Promote STEM Initiatives

Three additional partners awarded grants to increase diverse student participation in STEM

 

Columbus, OH — August 15, 2016 — The Army Educational Outreach Program (AEOP), in collaboration with Battelle, has awarded grants to three organizations and institutions to expand student participation in enriching science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) exploration and learning, particularly for underserved students. AEOP offers students and teachers Army-sponsored programs that effectively engage, inspire and attract the next generation of STEM talent.

These second-round grant recipients will join a community of eight like-minded AEOP partner organizations awarded competitive grants in April 2016.

Through AEOP’s suite of programs, students from elementary school to college, representing all proficiency levels and ethnic, economic and academic backgrounds, participate in real-world experiences involving STEM disciplines. Scientists, technology experts, engineers and mathematicians, who act as mentors and guides, introduce students to the various opportunities in STEM fields through hands-on experiences and provide advice for technical skill development and career planning.

“We’ve seen firsthand the power of partnering with strong local communities to provide even more students with high-quality STEM learning and mentorship,” said Jeffrey Singleton, Director of Basic Research, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology or ASA(ALT). “By further expanding AEOP’s network, we are able to ensure students from all backgrounds, particularly those from underserved and underrepresented communities, have the opportunity to engage in programs proven to help students develop knowledge and skills that prepare them for real-world careers.”

AEOP’s new partners were selected specifically for their leadership in STEM learning and outreach to African-American, Hispanic, female and military-connected students. Together with these partners, the Army seeks to enhance existing programs to provide the highest quality experiences and contribute to an exceptionally prepared workforce.

“Hands-on learning and career exploration opportunities allow students to develop a sense of possibility for their own futures,” said Aimee Kennedy, Vice President, Education, STEM Learning, & Philanthropy at Battelle. “For many students, these experiences are breaking down stereotypes of what STEM careers look like and how to pursue them.”

The grantees will each receive $50,000 awards to facilitate meaningful collaboration that will ultimately integrate with or enhance the suite of opportunities already offered by AEOP. Second-round recipients include:

Johns Hopkins University: Hopkins Extreme Materials Institute (HEMI) and the Center for Educational Outreach (CEO) (Baltimore, Md.): HEMI conducts experiments to improve protection materials for the Army, models brain injury associated with sporting competitions and studies planetary impact. CEO operates 11 STEM programs which engage over 2,200 middle and high school students annually from underserved communities, and will combine with Junior Science and Humanities Symposia (JSHS). The partnership will also integrate REAP and Engineering Innovation into the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) program and expand mentorship, competition and research opportunities for female and military-connected students.

Northwest Ohio Center for Excellence in STEM Education at BGSU: The partnership will increase the number of underrepresented students participating in the Ohio Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (OJSHS) in March 2017, and beyond. NWO will recruit and train 30-60 underrepresented students and their teachers from Toledo Public, Lima City and Fostoria school districts with the purposes of engaging the students in scientific research and STEM studies.

Washington STEM (Seattle, Wash.): Washington STEM will leverage its ten-region STEM Network system to significantly expand and scale the AEOP eCYBERMISSION program across Washington for students and teachers.

About AEOP: The Army Educational Outreach Program (AEOP) is comprised of Army-sponsored research, education, competitions, internships, and practical experiences designed to engage and guide students and teachers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). From elementary school through graduate school, students at all levels, interests, ethnic, economic, and academic backgrounds are encouraged to participate in hands-on programs in STEM disciplines. More information is available at: www.usaeop.com.

###

Army Programs Boost Students’ Interest in STEM

Survey demonstrates increased enthusiasm for STEM study and careers among students who complete Army Educational Outreach Programs

 

Columbus, OH — July 6, 2016 — Students reported a deeper interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) after completing one of the enrichment programs, competitions or apprenticeships sponsored by the U.S. Army. When compared to responses students provided at the start of the programs, evaluations conducted throughout the 2015 season of the Army Educational Outreach Program (AEOP) demonstrated students had developed a clearer understanding of STEM careers, with many students expressing an increased interest in pursuing an advanced degree in a STEM subject.

The evaluation team at Purdue University’s College of Education conducted the research independently and prepared the rigorous report on behalf of Battelle Memorial Institute, AEOP partner and lead organization. AEOP relies on the valuable feedback in these evaluations to understand impact and make data-driven improvements to its programs.

“When we hear directly from students that these experiences improved their confidence and furthered their passion for STEM, we know we’ve done our job,” said Jeffrey Singleton, Director of Basic Research, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology.  “It’s all about creating a cohesive portfolio of programs that stimulate and encourage young people in their pursuit of STEM education and careers.  We continue to work hard to offer these programs, which span from elementary grades through college, to more students.”

The need has never been greater for all students, particularly students from underserved communities, to develop STEM literacy. STEM jobs are growing faster than any other field, and more employers—within and outside of STEM fields—are requiring that candidates possess the skills gained through STEM study and exploration. In an increasingly global economy, students will need to apply these critical thinking and problem-solving skills to tackle our greatest challenges.

Through AEOP’s suite of programs, students from elementary school to college, representing all proficiency levels and ethnic, economic and academic backgrounds, participate in real-world experiences involving STEM disciplines. Scientists, technology experts, engineers and mathematicians, who act as mentors and guides, introduce students to the various STEM opportunities within the Department of Defense through hands-on, project-based learning and provide advice for technical skill development and career planning.

All evaluation reports are available on the AEOP website. This year’s survey highlights include:

  • Over 75 percent of high school students who participated in AEOP’s UNITE pre-collegiate summer program reported large gains in 21st-century skills. Gains were significant for students from low-income communities.
  • After participating in the summer Research & Engineering Apprenticeship Program (REAP), high school “apprentices” studying with mentors at partner universities were more likely to aspire to a degree in STEM beyond a Bachelor’s degree. There was a ten percent jump in the number of students who indicated an interest in pursuing a Ph.D.
  • More than 80 percent of undergraduate College Qualified Leaders (CQL) found the experience rewarding enough to report they would participate again next year.

Part of AEOP’s model for success is its partnerships with academia, industry, not-for-profit organizations and other government agencies to engage, inspire and attract the next generation of STEM talent and expose them to Department of Defense STEM career opportunities.

“The success of AEOP is critically dependent on a strong academic and industry partnership—just as our research is critically dependent on a strong relationship with the Defense Industrial Base,” added Singleton.

In April 2016, AEOP, in collaboration with Battelle, awarded grants to eight organizations and technical associations to further expand student participation in enriching STEM exploration and learning, particularly for underserved students.

About AEOP: The Army Educational Outreach Program (AEOP) is comprised of Army-sponsored research, education, competitions, internships, and practical experiences designed to engage and guide students and teachers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). From elementary school through graduate school, students at all levels, interests, ethnic, economic, and academic backgrounds are encouraged to participate in hands-on programs in STEM disciplines. More information is available at: www.usaeop.com.

###

 

JSHS Winner Delivers Inspiring TEDx Talk

National JSHS first place winner Paige Brown recently took to the TEDxDirigo stage to discuss her award-winning research and lifelong love of science. Paige, who is a recent graduate of Bangor High School, has spent the past two years collecting and testing water samples from the streams in her hometown for phosphorus and other harmful pollutants. After months of research, she utilized her findings to create a phosphorus-eating filter to help improve the quality of stream water. Beginning this fall, she will attend Stanford University with plans to study chemical engineering.

Watch her fantastic talk about fierce determination, the power of curiosity, and how her high school’s inaugural STEM class inspired her to solve this real-world challenge. Way to go, Paige!

 

Studies Show Students Want More Real-World Opportunities

A new report from Change the Equation and the Amgen Foundation shows that students want hands-on opportunities inside and outside of the classroom that will inspire them to explore careers in scientific fields.

Students believe participation in science clubs and more connections with adults in their field of interest would be beneficial to their understanding of STEM careers.

Unfortunately, the study also revealed that most teenagers lack access to the resources and opportunities most critical to developing their lifelong love of science. Lack of access—and lack of role models in STEM—is particularly dire for low-income students.

 

These findings confirm the value of AEOP’s approach to nurturing students’ interest in STEM and exposing them to STEM careers through hands-on, real-world experiences and mentorship opportunities.

 

Key findings from the study include:
  • Most student respondents believe knowing an adult in their field of interest would be helpful, but only 32 percent actually know an adult in a science-based career.
  • Only 33 percent of teenagers have ever been involved in a science club or group, either in or out of school. Involvement from low-income teenagers is especially low, and these students are less likely to be aware of extracurricular science offerings.
  • Low-income students have the fewest pathways to science careers. They are less likely to know someone who works in biology (19 percent versus 25 percent of higher-income students) and less likely to have access to career-planning resources.

 

Want to take action? Tell a friend or student you know about AEOP. You never know, an AEOP program may be just the experience they are looking for.