Army mentorship pathway fosters future STEM leaders

September 05, 2018

By ARL Public Affairs

Story Highlights

  • The GEMS program is an ARL outreach effort designed to excite middle and high school students about the STEM field.
  • In this program, students interact with Army researchers and gain hands-on opportunities to learn about defense research, spanning from robotics to 3D printing.

ADELPHI, Md. (Sept. 5, 2018) -- Army summer interns working in the at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory's Network Science Research Lab presented a cybersecurity demonstration to high school students as part of the Gains in the Advancement of Mathematics and Science program, known as GEMS.

This learning experience highlights emerging Army technology while providing GEMS participants a pathway for possible science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, internships and even potential careers at the lab.

NSRL interns Quan Phan, Sujay Polini, Edwin Yu, and Egan McClave recently hosted a demonstration on how an advanced deception technology software can improve file security for the GEMS participants during one of their computer science rotations.

The application, Smokescreen, fragments pictures as they are sent across networks via nodes called raspberry pies.

If a pie is intercepted, the information obtained will be useless to the adversary.

The students spent their summer building a model that predicts when a node might go down so that the information on it can remain in possession of the ally.

"ARL and NSRL have helped develop a culture where we can ask questions," said Phan, one of the undergrad interns working under computer scientist Andrew Toth and Pathway student Ryan Sheatsley.

For many of the GEMS participants, this presentation was a part of a week full of first time exposure to the Army.

"NSRL is for reaching out to bring people in and talk about military problem sets," said Lisa Scott, a computer scientist in the Network Science Division. "To bring GEMS in here, I hope to introduce STEM concepts, but let them know how some of the Army technologies are created."

The GEMS program is an outreach effort designed to excite middle and high school students about the STEM field.

In the program, students interact with Army researchers and gain hands-on opportunities to learn about defense research, from robotics to 3-D printing.

In past summers, more than 250 students were welcomed to the Adelphi Laboratory Center, Aberdeen Proving Ground and White Sands Missile Range to engage in GEMS.

Phan, who was a GEMS participant before becoming an NSRL summer intern, notes how the experience shaped his goals.

"I came into college as general engineering and then I figured out what I wanted to do, but it all started at GEMS," Phan said.

By beginning early, Army research outreach initiatives like GEMS inspire students at a critical time in their education.

The GEMS program is designed in such a way that students follow a sequential path through the first, second and third iterations, each of them providing a deeper insight into STEM research at ARL.

"Before, I did not think I wanted to work here, but after watching all the cool things the interns get to do, it makes me want to be an intern here in college," said GEMS participant Kaitlyn Rivera, a homeschooled student in 11th grade.

McClave said his exposure to defense research through GEMS made him "appreciative," because it encouraged him to stick within the STEM realm.

Army education outreach initiatives build off each other, forming a pipeline program for students, officials said.

"Our experience from last year pulled us to come back and work on another project," Phan said. "The reason why I came back was because I had such a great experience last summer."

These transitions from student to researcher are a testament to the value of early STEM education and leadership initiatives, he said.


The U.S. Army Research Laboratory is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to ensure decisive overmatch for unified land operations to empower the Army, the joint warfighter and our nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.

 

Last Update / Reviewed: September 5, 2018