Army lab unfolds three technologies at APG's STEM Merit Badge Day

November 21, 2012

Story Highlights

  • ARL workforce supported three technology displays at the 2nd annual STEM Merit Badge Day hosted by APG and held in cooperation with the Baltimore Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America.
  • STEM Merit Badge event is the opportunity for Boy Scouts to earn up to 16 science, technology, engineering and mathematics-related badges in a single day.
  • BSA's STEM in Scouting is part of an initiative to "encourage the natural curiosity of youth members"

The U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) workforce supported three technology displays at the 2nd annual STEM Merit Badge Day hosted by Aberdeen Proving Ground and held in cooperation with the Baltimore Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America on Oct. 20 at Shore Park in Baltimore.

The main attraction for the annual STEM Merit Badge event is the opportunity for Boy Scouts to earn up to 16 science, technology, engineering and mathematics-related badges in a single day. Volunteers on APG helped Scouts ages 11-18 to achieve their goals.

Troops 973 and 936 from Abingdon opened Merit Badge Day by leading the group in reciting the Scout Oath and Law and the Pledge of Allegiance. Then, Maryland State Senator Barry Glassman, who is a Baltimore Area Council Board member, took the floor to welcome attendees and volunteers.

APG Installation and CECOM Commander Maj. Gen. Robert Ferrell toured the exhibits.

ARL's transitional neuroscience, human factors engineering and advanced armor materials tables were just a sampling of the displays and other exhibits included for more than 250 participants.

The translational neuroscience team demonstrated technologies ARL uses for scientific research such as easy-application electroencephalogram and "phantom" human head devices. The Scouts viewed their brain waves in action at the demonstration booth.

"A lot of times they were in disbelief," said Dr. Dave Hairston, a basic research neuroscientist with ARL's Human Research and Engineering Directorate. "They said, 'There's no way he's moving that box with his thoughts.' Nobody trusted what was happening until they saw the operator's facial expression when things moved on the computer screen — that was the aha moment."

What was thought to be a "trick" came as a result of a headset with sensors that can pick up brain waves and process the information through algorithms that classify brain signals, said Hairston, who is an Eagle Scout and adult leader for Cub Scout Pack 235 in Churchville. "We find ways to make this kind of neuroscience technology useable in the real world."

Human factors engineers with ARL highlighted manpower and personnel integration efforts via the joint tactical radio system and other predecessor radio systems.

Armor protection that is critical to Army missions was the theme for the Weapons and Materials Research Directorate advanced armor display. Scouts asked questions about the transparent armor, hybridized thermoplastic helmets and energy-absorbing materials that were on display.

Scientists and engineers with ARL not only held demonstrations, but a couple also served as general volunteers and merit badge counselors.

Lauren Muellen, from the Weapons and Materials Research Directorate, and her son, Dillon came as general volunteers for their second year.

Ray Von Wahlde, from the Vehicle Technology Directorate, has also participated for the last 2 years as a Robotic Merit Badge counselor. "Robotics is a major part of STEM. I want to make sure it's represented," he said. "The Scouts had a lot of enthusiasm for robotics."

He taught and validated completion requirements for 11 Scouts who earned the Robotics Merit Badge during the event.

The scientists and engineers at APG should spur innovation as the Army promotes interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, said ARL's Weapons and Materials Research Directorate director, and newly appointed APG STEM Champion, Patrick Baker, who attended the event.

BSA's STEM in Scouting is part of an initiative to "encourage the natural curiosity of youth members" through programs that cultivate critical thinking and innovation that enable them to better compete in the world market.

"We appreciate the importance of community outreach," Hairston said. "Even in its infancy, the STEM Merit Badge Day is a great program. A one-day introduction to a host of categories is an awesome idea with this hotbed of science and technology right in the neighborhood."

For more information about STEM in Scouting, visit www.scouting.org/STEMZa 05291989 .

 

Last Update / Reviewed: November 21, 2012