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Making STEM A Priority

April 2014

Army scientists inspire young students

A team of Army scientists and engineers descended on Southampton Middle School recently with a mission to ensure future soldiers have the best technology available.

Edgewood Chemical Biological Center biological laboratory technician Leslie Williams shows students the color of science during STEM and Beyond Night at Southampton Middle School. Photo by Conrad Johnson (RDECOM).

Edgewood Chemical Biological Center biological laboratory technician Leslie Williams shows students the color of science during STEM and Beyond Night at Southampton Middle School. Photo by Conrad Johnson (RDECOM).

Jyuji Hewitt is the deputy director of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command. He was also recently named the STEM Champion for Aberdeen Proving Ground.

“In order to get to that best technology, you have to have scientists and engineers that work the very hard problems to bring that technology forward,” Hewitt says. “To have those engineers and scientists, you have to have that pool of scientists to choose from to bring them into the workforce.”

RDECOM and APG teamed with the Northeastern Maryland Technology Council to participate in the STEM and Beyond Night program. Every middle school in Harford and Cecil counties, the area around APG, will serve as a host site for the program in a three-year rotation. Southampton held three sessions each of more than 20 hands-on demonstrations with the scientists and engineers in addition to more than 15 exhibits set up in the school’s cafeteria.

“I believe these types of programs are very important because we want to engender a passion at a very young age in our school children, bring them up in the areas of science and technology, engineering and mathematics,” Hewitt says.

“We want them to have that fire burning within so they can carry it through high school and college and on out to the workforce later in life,” he says.

Students learn the different states of matter – solid, liquid and gas – during STEM and Beyond Night.

Students learn the different states of matter – solid, liquid and gas – during STEM and Beyond Night. Photo by Conrad Johnson (RDECOM).

Hewitt says he became interested in science at an early age.

“I was always interested in science, and I ended up majoring in chemistry in college. Then while I was a commissioned officer the Army sent me to get a master’s degree in nuclear physics,” he says. “I was able to use those science skills [such as] critical thinking throughout my Army career … and now as an [Army] civilian. So I’ve always been interested in science. It’s great.”

National math and science scores have been dropping, Hewitt says, and he feels this type of program will get young students off to a good start.

“This is a program to help get that passion and help get that interest back into our young children,” he says. “We want to bring them back up and then as they go through high school and college and get their Ph.D.s, then we’ll have a pool to choose from.”

“And the fact that they got to work with a program like that with APG [scientists and engineers], then they may say, ‘Hey, I remember doing science work at that program.’ Then they might have a passion for doing something to support the Army,” he says.

Hewitt says the STEM outreach programs at APG are the best programs he has seen.

“I want to go out and see what’s going on at the other programs we have across RDECOM and take the best practices of all of them and meld them together,” he says. “I think that’s one of the things the STEM program can do in support of the Army, in working with the Acquisition, Logistics and Technology office. To make sure we have a good consistent program that’s meeting the needs of the President and his objectives and the Army, to bring up and get that passion for science in our youth.

“These [students] are our future,” he says. “These are the folks that are going to replace us, so we do have a vested interest to get these guys interested in science. I think that’s so important and will help our nation as a whole.” I95

“These [students] are our future …”

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