Again this summer, Fort Detrick leadership is doing their part to support the Gains in the Education of Mathematics and Science program hosted by Hood College.
GEMS is a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math summer program funded by the Office of the Assistant Secretary for the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology and managed by the Army Educational Outreach Program Office. The program is designed to give students an immersive one-week lab experience focused on a specific STEM field.
Fort Detrick leaders like Maj. Gen. Brian C. Lein, commanding general, U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command and Fort Detrick, understand that the Army needs to cultivate the next generation of military scientists and engineers that are strategic thinkers and problem solvers. One way Fort Detrick leadership is working to shape the workforce is by supporting local STEM initiatives like GEMS.
As a STEM enrichment program, GEMS creates hands-on opportunities for elementary, middle and high school students as well as college students and teachers. Fort Detrick has participated in GEMS for the past 10 years.
According to Michael Sandridge, educational consultant and program coordinator for Fort Detrick’s GEMS program, the Fort Detrick program is very selective. Last year, the program accepted 500 out of 1,000 applicants. This year, the program accepted just over 500 students out of 1,500 applications to the program.
Speaking at a GEMS graduation on July 23, Lein shared with the students not only his love of the Battlebots television show, but also his hope that the GEMS students continue to pursue their love of science and technology and consider working for the military.
“Go out, do great things and maybe consider working for the military,” said Lein. “The Army needs people who can think innovatively, and that’s you.”
Students in 4th-12th grades had seven specialized programs to choose from including environmental, Crime Scene Investigation, battlebots and robotics. Students worked with state-certified teachers and organizational professionals to provide a hands-on learning experience.
“We have been fortunate enough to work with a variety of subject matter experts from Fort Detrick, both as career speakers for our GEMS students and as subject matter experts to our near peer mentors,” said Sandridge. “The leadership has been very supportive of the programs goals and the students’ successes.”
Fort Detrick’s U.S. Army Garrison Commander Bob O’Brien understands first-hand the importance of supporting STEM initiatives - both at work and at home. O’Brien’s son participated in one of the weekly sessions at Hood College, and O’Brien spoke at a GEMS graduation on July 30.
“Did you know that ‘geek’ is the new cool?” said O’Brien during the July 30 graduation. “As an infantry man, this geek stuff isn’t what I’m good at, but I wouldn’t have the resources and materials that I need if it weren’t for the science and technology innovations that people like you are doing.”
The need for STEM literacy is growing exponentially. The requirement for STEM literacy goes beyond the traditional STEM occupations of scientist, engineer and mathematician. The Army also has a growing need for highly qualified, STEM-literate technicians and skilled workers in advanced manufacturing, logistics, management and other technology-driven fields.
“To remain at the ready, the U.S. Army will need to continue to foster these young minds,” said Lein.