Army, N.J. education officials brainstorm to enhance STEM education

New Jersey educators and school board members attended a New Jersey School Boards Association Professional Development Day at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, NJ July 15.

More than 60 school officials and teachers from the New Jersey School Boards Association participated in a professional development day hosted by the U.S. Army here July 15.

The event hosted at the Army Materiel Command’s Communications-Electronics Research Development and Engineering Center, or CERDEC, Ground Activity allowed educators and school board members to see how the Army relies on research, development and engineering.

“Our educators need to know that the Army has a Research, Development and Engineering Command, a two-star command, that they utilize STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] to apply the scientific method to solve problems and think critically to give back to the force whether it’s Army, Navy, Air Force. A lot of the technology here goes out to the greater world,” said Capt. Carl Hartman, company commander, U.S. Army Central Jersey Recruiting Company, Mid-Atlantic Recruiting Battalion.

“Many of the engineers out here today got their start in the military,” Hartman said. “A lot of people for various reasons over the last 15–16 years — I feel they think the Army is predominately about combat arms — infantry, armor, artillery, maybe combat engineering, when in fact that is only about 20 percent of Army careers, while the other 80 percent of jobs in the military have everything to do with science, technology, engineering, arts and math.”

In addition to careers in the military, there are career tracks students could consider as part the Army’s civilian workforce.

The NJSBA, the Central NJ Recruiting Company and the CERDEC Ground Activity teamed up to expose NJ educators and school board members to the research and development side of the Army.

“Ideally what we would like is at some point to have students be interested in the work we do here, and they might be interested in pursuing technical or engineering school to make doing this type of work a career for themselves,” said Joseph Ryan, CERDEC Ground Activity, acting trail boss.

The event came as a result of a year-and-a-half long pilot program by the NJSBA in which the Army allowed a sergeant first class to imbed with the association in order to advise and inform New Jersey school boards about the Army’s science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics, or STEAM, capabilities.

The Army and NJSBA relationship allows the schools to leverage Army resources such as STEAM and STEM programming, while the Army can demonstrate its non-combat arms expertise.

“This is a unique pilot program with having the sergeant in our organization, and what we’ve learned in particular is that the message is getting out to our community that the Army is the number one technology company,” Vincent DeLucia, NJSBA educator-in-residence and director of professional development.

This Army-School Boards Association relationship is considered to be the first of its kind in the country, DeLucia said.

The professional development day at the CERDEC Ground Activity, which is part of CERDEC’s Space and Terrestrial Communications Directorate, served a variety of purposes to include providing school officials and teachers an opportunity to see the practical, real-world application of STEAM; demonstrating the increasingly high-tech nature of the Army; and learning more about both military and civilian career paths available to students interested in STEAM, according to Sgt. First Class George Johnson, U.S. Army iSTEAM fellow who is imbedded with the NJSBA.

There was a heavy focus on potential STEAM-related career opportunities on both the military and civilian side for educators and school decision makers to pass along to their students for consideration, Johnson said.

Participants learned through lectures, demonstrations and hands-on experiences how the CERDEC Ground Activity uses field-based risk reduction, a process of field experimentation used to mature and validate emerging technologies to better transition a technology to an operational capability for use by the Army and its partners.
The NJSBA, the Central NJ Recruiting Company and the CERDEC Ground Activity teamed up to expose NJ educators and school board members to the research and development side of the Army.

The day was set-up to accommodate different learning styles of those present and those unfamiliar with the Army and Army research, development and engineering requirements, said Susan Sodon, CERDEC Ground Activity.

“We wanted to give them an experience where they could see and touch it all and not just be lectured,” Sodon said.

Moving forward, the Army and the NJSBA will look to refine the professional development day. “If we claim to care about kids, if we claim to care about the future of young people, it is incumbent upon us to make sure that they have the information and the opportunity to make decisions about their future,” said Dr. Lawrence Feinsod, executive director of the New Jersey School Boards Association.

“The days of shunning the military or saying you can go in the back door has got to come to an end. The new Army, the new military offers incredible opportunities for young people, and we must share that information about the new Army and the new military with our parents, and with our students and with our staff,” Feinsod said.

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The U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center 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.

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