SLAD: The Next Generation
| Each summer, the next generation of bright young minds spends time at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) as a part of the organization's initiative to provide high-school students valuable experience working with ARL's top scientists and engineers. The Science and Engineering Apprentice Program (SEAP) and the Gains in the Education of Mathematics and Science (GEMS) program deliver an incredible opportunity for students to work in a professional research laboratory setting, and to learn how their research can benefit the Army as well as its importance to the civilian community.|
SEAP, a partnership between George Washington University and the Department of Defense (DoD) is an eight-week or longer program, which this year paired five of its students with ARL's Survivability/Lethality Analysis Directorate (SLAD). The apprenticeship started with an introduction to C, a general-purpose computer programming language. Students created basic 3-D models as they began to learn the fundamentals of programming. With their projects completed, participants had the opportunity for hands-on engagement with actual military equipment.
This year the students modeled the BTR-70, an eight-wheeled Russian armored personnel carrier. The process required the participants to work as a cohesive unit to create a hierarchy of measurements and accurately model the BTR-70 in BRL-CAD, an open-source solid modeling system actively used throughout the DoD.
"The program is a great opportunity for students to get a first-hand look at some of our many capabilities here at SLAD. From the data acquisition process, to accurately creating the model in BRL-CAD, the students gain tremendous insight into each step of the modeling process," explained Sean Morrison, a veteran member of the Advanced Computer Systems Team and a former student apprentice for SLAD.
This year's participants are from Maryland, Delaware, and Pennsylvania, and participated in SEAP for a variety of reasons. One of the students, Valeriia expressed her love for math, science, and art. She saw SEAP as an opportunity to learn something new and gain experience in the field of programming. While her peers Brendon and John also share an interest in math and science, these students heard about the program through friends and family, and viewed it as a great alternative to the typical summer job. When asked about their favorite parts of the experience, Emory and Joe couldn't help but focus on their interaction with an actual BTR-70. Joe said that it was his very first time seeing a military vehicle up close, and found it really interesting. However, Emory summarized the group's thoughts best with his statement, "Climbing on tanks is just pretty cool."
While those students were working with ARL through SEAP, the GEMS program was also in full swing. SLAD participated in GEMS both at Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG) and at White Sands Missile Range (WSMR). A group of 45 students and four teachers spent a week at WSMR exploring an exciting world of rockets, optics, robotics, radios, antennas, probability and statistics, computers, audio engineering, and electrical design. Each topic was complemented by a tour of an advanced test or research facility, a technology demonstration, or a hands-on laboratory experience.
"Few people on WSMR, much less the general public, ever get to see inside [an advanced test or research] facility like that," said Kurt Austin, who coordinates GEMS for SLAD at WSMR. "The kids are getting to see it up close and personal."
SEAP and GEMS are parts of a nationwide effort designed to encourage students to continue gaining education in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). As the demand for STEM-related workers continues to increase, these programs are critical in developing the scientists of tomorrow. SLAD is excited and proud to participate in programs like SEAP and GEMS, offering students the rare opportunity for a wide-ranging, hands-on experience that integrates many aspects of STEM. All of the participants in this summer's programs expressed interest in continuing their education in the areas of science and engineering, and pursuing a STEM-related career.