December 21, 2022

Each summer, our amazing teams of Resource Teachers and Near-Peer Mentors bring the exciting world of STEM to students across the U.S. through AEOP’s Gains in the Education of Mathematics and Science (GEMS) program. Resource Teachers (local STEM educators) and Near-Peer Mentors (high school and college students) bring their STEM expertise and mentorship to GEMS to lead hands-on summer programming at participating U.S. Army research laboratories and engineering centers. 

Without the incredible cohort of Resource Teachers and Near-Peer Mentors, GEMS would not be possible. We sat down with Dr. Barbara Dunham (Resource Teacher – Alabama), Prayag Sreenivasan (Near-Peer Mentor – Texas), Rohini Sreenivasan (Near-Peer Mentor – Texas), Noah Gomes (Near-Peer Mentor – Maryland) and Daniel Vu (Near-Peer Mentor – Florida) to learn more about their experiences. 

What are your favorite parts about being involved with GEMS? 

Dr. Dunham: “I love working with the students and leading the lessons in a hands-on way. As an educator, seeing my students engaged and excited during each GEMS module is so rewarding.”

Prayag: “My GEMS experience started as a student. I loved the freedom of the experience. I could learn how I wanted and was given the opportunity to figure things out for myself. I decided to return to GEMS as a Near-Peer Mentor where I have learned how to help others learn, which has really given me new perspectives on STEM.”

How has GEMS helped shape your STEM journey?

Noah: “The AEOP GEMS program has provided me with a good STEM foundation. I participated in GEMS as a student for three years and then for four more consecutive years as a Near-Peer Mentor. After seven years with the program, I have learned different methods and applications of technology with the Department of Defense and specifically the Army. More importantly, GEMS taught me that STEM has many career opportunities, which I repeatedly convey to my peers or new mentees, helping shape my path. Currently, I am commissioning with the U.S. Public Health Services as a nurse with the knowledge that there are vast opportunities for me in the Army.”

Daniel: “GEMS helped build and expand my network, connecting me with other organizations in the field. I am currently an intern at the DoD’s Starbase lab directly because of GEMS.”

Prayag: “With GEMS, I had the opportunity to develop my leadership skills as well as the freedom to explore in a maker space environment. My experience has given me the confidence to grow as a STEM leader in my extracurriculars and clubs. I now feel ready to pursue a major in aerospace engineering.”

Do you have any words of advice for someone considering getting involved with GEMS?

Dr. Dunham: “Be willing to learn and implement new resources as well as be open to the opportunity to teach and learn new technologies. As an educator, being involved in GEMS has been a wonderful learning experience for me. I look forward to continuing to participate in GEMS in the near future.”

Noah: “Participating in GEMS is one of the best decisions I have made. The plethora of networks I developed while attending GEMS will definitely come in handy in the future. I was able to build relationships with fellow students who had the same goals as me. I even made professional connections with the scientists and program staff. I personally believe GEMS is one of the best programs for a student who is trying to figure out what comes next for them.”

Rohini: “Don’t feel intimidated at all. GEMS is a space to be creative and explore your interests. You will meet so many people and have the chance to put your real-world problem solving skills to use. Just don’t think too much and enjoy it. I entered GEMS intimidated by engineering, and now I am pursuing it, so I encourage you to take a chance and keep an open mind.”

Want to get involved? Several GEMS locations are still looking for Resource Teachers and Near-Peer Mentors for next summer. Find a location near you and apply today: 

  • Find a Volunteering Opportunity

    Visit our Program Volunteers page for a tool to find the best opportunity for you.



    The eCYBERMISSION Mini-Grant is intended to support teachers/program leaders as they implement eCYBERMISSION with their teams. Educators (formal and informal) of students in grades 6-9 are encouraged to apply. Special consideration is given to Title 1 schools and to those with underserved/ under-represented populations.