AEOP awards partner grants to increase diverse student engagement in STEM

COLUMBUS, OHIO (October 12, 2017): The Army Educational Outreach Program, in collaboration with Battelle, has awarded grants to five organizations and technical associations to expand student participation in enriching science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) exploration and learning, particularly for underserved students. AEOP offers students, from elementary school through undergraduate education, and educators collaborative, high-quality, Army-sponsored programs that engage, inspire and attract the next generation of STEM talent.

Through AEOP’s suite of programs, students representing all proficiency levels and ethnic, economic and academic backgrounds participate in real-world experiences involving STEM disciplines. Army civilian scientists and engineers serve as mentors and guides, bringing young people directly into Army laboratories and introducing them to the various opportunities in STEM fields through hands-on experiences.

AEOP engages a network of partners through Strategic Outreach Initiative grants to expand student participation in enriching STEM exploration and learning, particularly for underserved students. AEOP’s latest cohort of partners—three new and two renewed, following an existing partnership—were selected specifically for their leadership in STEM learning and outreach to African-American, Hispanic, female, low-income and military-connected students. Bringing together the strongest thought and strategic partners also allows the Army’s programs to better reflect the best of this diverse nation.

“The Army is committed to contributing to a technically skilled and capable workforce. Working with like-minded partners and networks, we have the potential to do this more effectively, leverage one another’s strengths and reach a far broader and more diverse audience,” Dr. Matt Willis, Director of Laboratory Management, Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Research & Technology, said.

The U.S.’s STEM capabilities are critical to the nation’s innovation, economic competitiveness and national security. Though the U.S. continues to make strides in STEM, research shows a clear and alarming erosion in the nation’s STEM capabilities, evident in both the skills gap plaguing major industries and students’ lagging achievement in mathematics and science compared to peers around the world. By leveraging the Army’s strengths, and leaning on the strengths of partners, the Army has addressed this STEM crisis on multiple fronts, with promising results.

“Through hands-on learning, students see how they can excel in STEM careers,” said Dr. Aimee Kennedy, Senior Vice President for Education, STEM Learning and Philanthropy at Battelle. “Whether in teams of peers or guided by a mentor, this kind of learning will help inspire the next generation of innovators.”

Strategic Outreach Initiative grantees will each receive awards ranging from $49,000 to $200,000 to facilitate meaningful collaboration that will ultimately integrate with or enhance the suite of opportunities already offered by AEOP. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis. Recipients include:

Montana Tech (Butte, Mont.): Montana Tech will implement a Fellowships in Research program that will serve 250 low-income, first-generation or Native American high school students. Montana Tech will also promote AEOP programs and materials to its robust network of underserved students; create an after-school STEM camp for Native American high school students at the North American Indian Alliance, where undergraduate and graduate students serve as role models, increasing students’ academic achievements and encouraging their independent research efforts; host a weekend Research Academy for select local students; and conduct a Summer Research Academy for 24 additional fellows.

North Carolina Science, Mathematics and Technology Education Center (Research Triangle Park, N.C.): Project partners will establish a North Carolina STEM Research Academy high school to increase the pipeline of diverse students engaged in STEM research in rural school districts, where access to quality student research, mentors and materials are often a challenge. Master educators will lead teacher academies focused on student research best practices for educators at North Carolina early colleges, which are small public high schools where students simultaneously work toward a high school diploma and college credit. Students—with a priority given to those from underrepresented or minority groups, who receive free or reduced meals, who are first generation college students and/or military-connected students—will compete in AEOP competitions, including eCYBERMISSION, and will participate in Saturday Academies and digital meetings with an emphasis on mentorship, engineering design, analysis and related topics.

Northwest Ohio Center for Excellence in STEM Education at Bowling Green State University (Bowling Green, Ohio): NWO at BGSU will build upon a previously funded AEOP strategic outreach project to increase the number of underrepresented students participating in JSHS in March 2018, and beyond. NWO will recruit and train approximately 200 students from underserved populations and their teachers from Toledo Public and Springfield Local school districts to engage students in original scientific research and STEM studies. Under this model, the cadre of teachers from the previous year’s grant project will serve as mentors to newly recruited teachers. In addition, all participating teachers will be certified in Global Learning Observations to Benefit the Environment, an international science education program that promotes worldwide participation in data collection, data sharing and the scientific process.

Society of Women Engineers (Chicago, Ill.): In its second year as a partner, SWE will continue to increase the number of underrepresented students participating in eCYBERMISSION, UNITE and GEMS programs. To accomplish this, SWE will engage its national network of 400 professional and collegiate sections and over 50 K-12 clubs to leverage recruitment for these targeted programs at annual and local conferences. SWE has worked with each organization to define a specific strategy that leverages SWE’s resources, network and brand recognition. SWE will also increase participation by working with local, established groups of SWE leaders and SWENext clubs around the country. SWE anticipates more than 10,000 students will learn about and benefit from these programs.

The University of Central Florida Board of Trustees (Orlando, Fla.): The Florida Solar Energy Center, a research institute of the University of Central Florida, will embark on a collaborative pilot project to increase participation in Junior Solar Sprint and raise awareness about other AEOP programs among underserved, underrepresented and military-connected students. Partners also include Connecting Communities with Opportunities for Success and the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The pilot will include a media and communications plan; professional development for educators of the target populations; JSS kits, materials, tools and equipment for construction of JSS projects; a local community-based, student-driven JSS outreach event in both Colorado and Florida; targeted assistance for teams to participate in larger more established, JSS competitions; and the financial support for a team from each pilot location to attend the National JSS event coordinated by the Technology Student Association.

About AEOP: The Army Educational Outreach Program continues the Army’s 50-year legacy of supporting a wide range of educational opportunities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. AEOP provides students, from elementary school through undergraduate education, and educators—particularly from underserved communities—access to collaborative, high-quality STEM programs that engage, inspire and attract the next generation of STEM talent. In collaboration with strategic partners, AEOP strives to build a diverse, STEM-literate workforce and prepare all students to thrive. Learn more at


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.