Students return to school equipped with GEMS knowledge
More than 2,000 students, who recently headed back to school, participated in the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command's 2018 Gains in the Education of Mathematics and Science summer programs.
Six USAMRMC Army research laboratories held weekly sessions for middle and high school students to help encourage them to consider careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics from June through August.
"Even if these students do not become scientists, and that's fine if they don't they will have acquired a way of thinking, a perspective, a view point, a willingness to look at evidence and draw their own conclusions, and that will help make them successful in any field that they choose," said Margery Anderson, National Resource Council Fellow and science education outreach team member.
The weekly summer programs included group-level appropriate hands-on activities that followed a multidisciplinary educational curriculum focusing on STEM areas and were taught by peer mentors or resource teachers with STEM backgrounds. Upon successful completion of the programs, each participant received a $100 educational stipend.
"The concept behind this is that we want the students to have [a] very real science curriculum and very real science mentoring, so each of us is trained in science and research," said Anderson.
Some of the activities students partook in were blood typing, fingerprinting, computer coding, building robots, using a visual programming language and catching insects. Laboratory experiments were also designed to utilize other transferrable skills like critical thinking, troubleshooting, problem solving, decision making and communication.
"Learning about science and doing science are two different things," said Holly Brown, National Resource Council Fellow and science education outreach team member.
One of the hands-on lab experiences that also addressed a real world problem was an experiment that dealt with addiction and withdrawal. Veneeth Antony, near-peer mentor, Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, who is also a University of Maryland Baltimore County student studying bioinformatics and computational biology, said that over the course of three days, his students were able to observe and perform lab experiments that tested the effects of drug addiction and withdrawal using flatworms.
According to the Army Educational Outreach Program's Website, the mission for GEMS is to interest young people who might not have considered becoming scientists or engineers, and to get them interested in working in STEM careers early enough that they can attain the appropriate academic training.
Marcy Conrad, GEMS program coordinator, Fort Detrick, said the program helps students gain an interest in STEM while helping to build a pipeline of those interested students. Also, since GEMS is more like an internship, it allows those who participate gain real world hands-on experience. GEMS' goal of exposing and piquing the interest of students and helping them gain hands-on experiences extends to a variety of students who may lack STEM exposure due to different reasons.
"We have the opportunity to expose them to science and also provide them with opportunities that may not be available to them due to resources in their school district or the background of their parents or family," said Kevin Morris, National Resource Council Fellow and science education outreach team member.
Debra Yourick, director, Science Education and Strategic Communications, WRAIR, said they also want to change the cycle and expose students who may not have a parent or family member who works in a STEM field.
For those interested in participating in upcoming GEMS programs, eligibility requirements include completing an application, being a rising fifth to twelfth grader and being a U.S. citizen or permanent legal resident.
USAMRMC's six participating locations are Fort Detrick in Frederick; U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory in Fort Rucker, Alabama; U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research at Joint Base San Antonio Fort Sam Houston, Texas; U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense at Aberdeen Proving Ground; U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine in Natick, Massachusetts; and Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Silver Spring.
To find more information about the program or for other AEOP programs available to students, go to AEOP's Web site: https://www.usaeop.com.
2018 GEMS participation data:
Fort Detrick(June 25-Aug. 9):
- 675 students
- 19 near peer mentors
- 2 assistant near peer mentors
- 3 resource teachers
USAARL(June 18-July 20):
- 429 students
- 23 near peer mentors
- 2 resource teachers
- 1 volunteer
USAISR(June 18-July 13):
- 89 students
- 3 near peer mentors
- 3 assistant near peer mentors
USAMRICD(June 25-July 27):
- 93 students
- 8 near peer mentors
- 1 resource teacher
USARIEM(July 9-Aug. 16):
- 187 students
- 5 near peer mentors
- 21 assistant near peer mentors
- 1 resource teacher
WRAIR(June 11-Aug. 16):
- 686 students
- 22 near peer mentors
- 7 assistant near peer mentors
- 2 resource teachers
- 2 observing resource teachers