Members of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command's Strategic Partnerships Office spent Sept. 23 at the Great Frederick Fair telling fairgoers about the command's mission. The SPO also showed attendees why the work conducted at the USAMRMC is important not only to members of the military, but to them and their families as well by "infecting" them with a virus during a virtual virus epidemic game.
The USAMRMC ensures that the U.S. Armed Forces remain in optimal health and are equipped to protect themselves from disease and injury, and much of its work also impacts public health. A recent example of such work is the USAMRMC developing a vaccine to help fight the global Ebola outbreak that started in West Africa.
During the day, the team simulated a virtual virus epidemic game that turned the entire fairgrounds into a playing field. Upon visiting the SPO booth, participants received a barcoded sticker representing a virus. Participants were also given two more stickers to share with two more people at the fair. All fairgoers who received stickers then returned to the SPO booth to be scanned, where they learned if they had been infected and with what.
The game showed participants the path of a virus in real time, from an initial infection to a fair-wide "epidemic." By the end of the day, 302 people had been infected by a virus.
"I asked some elementary-aged children if they knew what a virus was," said Michael Sandridge, USAMRMC educational consultant, who led the virtual epidemic. "Their answer was that it is something that breaks your computer. I am glad that after participating in the activity they now understand that a virus can be harmful to people, and that our scientists are working every day to prevent them as well."
Leaders at the USAMRMC understand the importance of raising children's interest in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math; they appreciate opportunities like the one at the fair that makes STEM exciting and fun.
"We must engage our young people to be excited and interested in STEM," said SPO Director Lt. Col. Felicia Langel. "By providing STEM opportunities and programs, we are working to shape our future workforce."
Throughout the year, the USAMRMC SPO supports and coordinates various research, education, internship and practical experiences designed to engage and guide students as well as teachers in STEM.
To learn more about STEM opportunities offered through the USAMRMC SPO, visit: http://stem.amedd.army.mil/index.cfm/opportunities.