Exploring Science and Technology
CCDC Chemical Biological Center Public Affairs | September 30th, 2016
Students in the Vivian Burey Marshall STEM Pilot Initiative of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund experiment with magnetic iron particles under the guidance of ECBC Engineer Stella Lee at the APG STEM Expo.
Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG) hosted its annual APG STEM Expo on Sept. 28. Approximately 100 ninth-grade students from schools in Harford and Baltimore counties, and Baltimore City Public Schools, participated in the half-day program.
The expo showcased STEM careers that are available through the Army and highlighted leading Army technologies. The goal of the program is to engage, inspire and develop the next generation of scientists and researchers.
“That’s our country’s future,” said Augustus Way Fountain, Ph.D., senior research scientist for chemistry at ECBC, to the gathering of students and educators. “There will be phenomenal opportunities in STEM careers.”
ECBC was among several agencies on the installation that participated, and each offered a demonstration station where volunteers from the respective agencies led students through experiments. Students moved from station to station, learning about various aspects of Army research and laboratory work and performing hands-on experiments.
“The kids are pretty excited,” said Dawna Taylor-Thornton, executive director of the Vivian Burey Marshall STEM Pilot Initiative, a component of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, who checked in with students from three schools that her organization brought to the expo. “They thought they were just coming to hear speakers talk. They didn’t know they would actually get to do hands-on participation.”
ECBC employees who volunteered to lead the experiments were eager to share their knowledge with the students. “I attended an expo like this when I was a kid and I still remember it,” said Cindy Learn, an ECBC chemical engineer who led the students in a water filtration experiment. “That glimmer in their eyes when they get it, is what keeps me going.”
The youth worked in teams with their classmates, rotating every 10 minutes to a new experiment station. “This is fun,” said Kyashia Walker from the Vivien T. Thomas Medical Arts Academy in Baltimore, who’s interested in pursuing a nursing career. “I didn’t want to come at first because I thought it would be boring but I like everything we’ve seen so far.”
The experiments covered engineering, science, math and health-related fields. Each experiment correlated with a particular discipline. ECBC personnel led experiments on water filtration (chemical engineering), identifying white powder substances in mail (chemistry, biology, forensic science), lead content in fortified cereals (food science), light spectroscopy (chemistry, physics) and reverse engineering (electrical and mechanical engineering).
“I enjoyed it,” said student Mackenzie Plowman from Bel Air High School. “I thought we were only going to see one or two experiments, but I’ve learned a lot here.”
Most of the students from the Baltimore area did not know APG existed prior to attending the expo, said Jemini Jones, a chaperone with the students from the Vivien T. Thomas Medical Arts Academy. “This expo is outstanding because it gives our kids an opportunity to see what’s outside of their neighborhood. It’s important because it gives them exposure and exposure is everything.”
In comparison, Harford County students who attended knew about APG but didn’t know what work takes place “behind the gate,” said Joshua Weeks, a biology teacher in the biomedical sciences program at Bel Air High School.
“The kids associate APG with the big ‘boom’ sounds,” Weeks said. “While explosives is a part of what APG does, now they see that there’s so much more being done here – physics, science, chemistry – and they see what opportunities there are for them to work here one day.”
Teachers and advisers who chaperoned the classes stressed exposure as a key benefit of the expo and crucial to retaining students in STEM education. The expo also provided students with an opportunity to meet and interact with personnel from ECBC to find out about summer internships that may be available in high school and college.
“For most, this is their first year in a STEM program,” Taylor-Thornton said. “Exposure is crucial to their success in a STEM program. Now that they’ve come here, they’re being exposed to the opportunities that are here at APG, close to home, and they’re really excited.”
Visit the ECBC STEM and Outreach Program wepage for more information.