ARL-GEMS ProvidesMath and Science Opportunities to Students

October 12, 2009

GEMS participants test the strength of polymers in ARL's electromechanical testing facility. GEMS participants test the strength of polymers in ARL's electromechanical testing facility.

Hundreds of middle and high school students were exposed to world-class laboratories and scientific experiments this summer during the U.S Army Research Laboratory's Gains in the Advancement of Mathematics and Science (GEMS) programs.

Every year ARL opens its doors at Aberdeen Proving Ground and Adelphi, Md., as well as at White Sands Missile Range (WSMR), N.M., for students to attend the GEMS science camp.

With WSMR hosting about 30 students, Adelphi having about 100 during five, one-week sessions, and APG welcoming about 130 kids during its four, one-week sessions, ARL educated more than 250 kids in math and science.

"It's a whole week of hands-on action," said Dr. Sandy Young, a researcher at ARL's Weapons and Materials Research Directorate and APG's GEMS program director.

Her APG students did more than a dozen experiments -- including building a robot and making nylon string -- using lessons in chemistry, engineering, materials science and more.

"They get experience and equipment they don't have in schools," she added.

The students are introduced to lab experiments designed by ARL's active scientists, who are many times at the forefront of their fields, and they're allowed to use the equipment the scientists use every day.

WMRD is a national scientific and engineering resource in weapons, protection, and materials technologies, and what the students learned in their laboratories reflected the skills of the scientists who developed the curriculum.

GEMS participants learn about shear thickening fluid, which is fluid that becomes stronger the more pressure that's applied. GEMS participants learn about shear thickening fluid, which is fluid that becomes stronger the more pressure that's applied.

"I think it's really neat," said one student during an experiment on shear materials, which are used in body armor research." I like to experiment and play with different things - see different properties."

The students from Las Cruces, N.M., were given the chance to learn about electronics, aeronautics, optics and lasers, and other subjects from the White Sands ARL employees. Adelphi students, mostly from Prince Georges County, Md., delved into fuel cells, generators and DNA extraction.

It wasn't just the students who were enthusiastic about the science camps. Scott Adams' daughter participated in GEMS as a Science and Engineering Apprentice Program summer intern at APG.

"I think it's an excellent program," he said after his daughter gave a presentation about environmental contamination clean-up procedures. "I think all the scientists who spend their time with the students should be commended."

A GEMS participant rolls a ball of corn starch based material that stays solid only as long as pressure is applied. The experiment was part of the Gains in the Education of Mathematics and Science program hosted by ARL's Weapons and Materials Directorate. A GEMS participant rolls a ball of corn starch based material that stays solid only as long as pressure is applied. The experiment was part of the Gains in the Education of Mathematics and Science program hosted by ARL's Weapons and Materials Directorate.

ARL scientists give their everyday expertise to the programs and teach some of the classes, but full-time educators as well as older SEAP student interns are also involved.

Donna Clem, coordinator for the Science and Mathematics Academy in Harford County, Md., was the lead teacher at APG's GEMS and has been involved for the five years ARL hosted the program.

"I think it's a fantastic program," said Clem. "I think this is an experience that can't be duplicated in high school."

Although schools don't usually have the equipment ARL can provide, Clem said Harford County purchased an instron machine, which measures the properties of materials, after seeing how beneficial it was during the GEMS experiments.

According to Clem, almost all of the students really enjoy the hands-on type of science classes, but she credits the preparation of the ARL staff for giving the kids a positive experience.

The GEMS program takes months to prepare, and each year is a little different, with the goal of improving on previous sessions, said Young. She and a group of ARL scientists volunteer their time and resources for the program.

"You have kids say 'why do I need to know this,' and they're (ARL employees) here showing them why they need math, science, etc...," said Clem.

Anyone interested in requesting information for next year's GEMS can visit the Army Education Outreach Program at http://www.usaeop.com.

 

Last Update / Reviewed: October 12, 2009