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Exposing the Impact of Science & Technology
Northeastern Maryland Technology Council

June 2012

The Global Positioning System (GPS) was put to widespread military use during the Desert Storm conflict. The GPS units helped military personnel navigate the very unfamiliar desert terrain of Iraq and Kuwait and carried a hefty price tag in the vicinity of $50,000 each.

Fast-forward 20 years. Not only is the GPS technology ubiquitous and used in products like smart phones or inlayed on chips to find lost pets, but a multi-functional GPS device for your car costs less than $200.

The GPS technology is just one example of technology transfer from military to civilian or commercial market. Many of the cool “new” products we use today have been in development – often starting with a military application – for years.

The Northeastern Maryland Technology Council (NMTC) is a regional organization that helps facilitate that tech transfer while sustaining and educating the community on the importance and use of science and technology. In 1991, Aberdeen Proving Ground was supporting the growing technology demand of Desert Storm and feeling the disconnect with local industry. A handful of individuals from academia, industry and local government started meeting, and in 1992 the NMTC was incorporated.

“I was a technical director at the Chemical Research Development Engineering Center (CRDEC) and was asked by some of the charter members if I would take the concept of NMTC to the APG leadership. I went to the leadership at the test and medical organizations and promoted the idea to them while the other members of the core group got the council organized and running,” Mike Parker, current board chair, explains.

“Growing from about 50 tenant organizations to about 80 today, the missions of APG have grown dramatically, but I think the role of NMTC has transcended time,” he continues. “The fundamentals when we formed are as applicable today as they were back in 1991. How do we take and leverage the technology base out of APG that was developed for a military purpose and see if there is an opportunity to assist new and existing businesses commercialize that technology?

“The Army Research Laboratory (ARL) of the Army Materiel Command does some very fundamental work in nano technology, which has the potential of being a real breakthrough on the commercial side. The Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC) has created protective gear for the military that is being incorporated into gear for non-military medical and emergency first responders. Those technologies are always being spun out from APG, so NMTC helps identify those technologies, identify a commercial entity or start up and bring them together.”

In addition to monthly membership meetings, NMTC routinely holds networking functions, presents speaker series and conducts educational workshops. Not only does NMTC work to connect businesses but it also helps to develop those businesses by providing resources. “More small technology businesses fail because of the business attributes, not because the technology idea was bad. We help educate them on business practices and economic trends from a technology perspective. We bring in subject matter experts to talk about writing a business plan, how to get funding and the rules of accounting. We also help in networking for those support companies that provide those services,” Parker includes.

Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) has recently become the starlet of national and local news, but it’s always been a core mission for NMTC. “Equally important from the very beginning because of the nature of what we do, has been STEM-related education,” Parker imparts. “It’s been a critical and focused area for us to positively prejudice a generation to pursue science and engineering fields that fuel the technology.”

Northeastern Maryland Technology Council
STEM Summit VI
July 26, 2012
Call 443-360-9132 or
visit nmtc.org

In 2004, the Army Alliance helped establish the Aberdeen Science & Math Academy within Aberdeen High School. “While the Alliance took the lead,” shares Parker, “NMTC pulled together the membership, volunteering to help develop the curriculum, find donations of equipment and mentoring the students. It’s been a very successful undertaking. They are getting 300 applicants for 55 slots, and their annual capstone projects are reaching senior-level college quality.”

Looking for solutions to focus the community’s efforts in promoting STEM, NMTC took the lead in uniting academia, government, technology and industry for the well-received STEM summits. According to John Casner, NMTC executive director, “The STEM Summit has gained national recognition for bringing together influential leadership to develop novel methods of investing in teachers and inspiring students and to eliminate the workforce gap in qualified engineering and science workers.”

Different NMTC committees work to raise funds for scholarships and grants, stay abreast of potential impacting legislation, and provide mentors for teacher and students. One committee is dedicated to presenting the year-round Science Café program. Science Cafe started in December 2010 and routinely draws nearly 60 people for each presentation. Dr. Nina Lamba, founder and president of CCL Biomedical, Inc., who leads the initiative for NMTC, heard about a program in England called “Science in the Pub,” where subject matter experts speak to the general public in an informal setting like a local watering hole. “I thought it was a great way to bring the science that you hear about in the media like stem cell research and climate change to the general public where they can learn about it and understand what it means for them,” Lamba explains. NMTC presents the Science Cafés at the Barnes and Noble in Bel Air and the Harford County Public Library Abingdon branch, as well as venues in Cecil County like Cecil College and the Cecil County Public Library Perryville branch.

“For instance, the next café, on June 12 [Bel Air Barnes & Noble] will present the neurological side of addiction – the brain connection. Scientists are making discoveries that will impact the onset of addiction as well as treatments and societal perceptions. Addiction is not just about instant gratification or self-discipline. By explaining the science to the general public, there can be a meaningful shift in how we approach addiction going forward,” says Lamba.

“We’re attracting high school students, parents and even retired scientists who want to learn something different,” Lamba continues. “It’s appealing to everyone. The students and parents get to hear that pursuing a science education can lead to a future that can be interesting and flexible once they’ve found their passion. One of our first sessions, ‘Roomba, Rovers & Retinas,’ illustrated how science led to the invention and application of robotics in a vacuum cleaner, the Mars exploration and retinal surgery.”

Parker adds, “The pace of training that technology is driving is speeding up. This generation is using tools that allow for virtual collaboration with participants from all over the world to come together to solve a problem. How the students of the future learn and apply their training and education will also change. The traditional delivery of higher education will have to change, too, and be more flexible.”

With STEM initiatives, innovative programs like the Science Cafe and the mission to connect people and businesses in technology, NMTC is poised to remain pivotal in facilitating a better understanding of the need and dependence on science and technology in everyday life. I95

 

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