ERDC sets the foundation with STEM summer camps and student tours

Published 12:55 pm Wednesday, August 17, 2022

The U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) held a multitude of camps and tours this summer for students through the Army Educational Outreach Program (AEOP).

The program exposes young people to career paths in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and offers many options ranging from middle school to graduate studies.

ERDC is a member of the AEOP, which provides a huge portfolio of student and teacher programs, including competitions, camps, activities, internships, fellowships and professional development experiences. AEOP’s mission is to provide both students and teachers with a collaborative, cohesive portfolio of U.S. Army-sponsored STEM programs that effectively engage, inspire and attract the next generation of STEM talent.

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“The summer AEOP programs begin the ERDC recruiting process,” said Speler Montgomery, ERDC talent acquisition program manager. “We are working to create a future STEM work force when we bring these students to the camps. We have created the foundation that forms the pipeline to creating leaders.”

Montgomery added that ERDC has several employees who are leaders, program managers, senior scientists and more who have also gone through the process.

Camp Invention is a weeklong summer STEM enrichment program for kindergarten through sixth graders. Local educators facilitate the camp and students rotate through a curriculum that is supplied by the National Inventors Hall of Fame. ERDC currently has five Camp Invention sites in Vicksburg, and in the future, ERDC is hoping to expand to the Construction Engineering Research Laboratory (CERL) in Illinois and the Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL) in New Hampshire. The Vicksburg sites include Dana Road Elementary School, Beechwood Elementary School, Warren Central Intermediate School, Bowmar Elementary School and South Park Elementary School.

Gains in the Education of Mathematics and Science (GEMS) is a summer STEM enrichment program for middle and high school students. ERDC offered a total of 10 weeks of GEMS camps this summer, which included seven in Vicksburg, one at CRREL and two at CERL. The program is guided by ERDC science and engineering, or S&E, volunteers along with the assistance of teachers and near-peer mentors. The programs vary by site but all include hands-on lab experiments and STEM activities with STEM professionals.

Student tours provide an opportunity for students to see STEM jobs in action and hopefully pique their interest in pursuing a STEM career. It also allows students the opportunity to ask researchers and scientists questions and see the real-world application of STEM disciplines.

“Since I’m a former teacher, one of the most rewarding feelings to me is to see students engaged in the learning process,” said ERDC education outreach coordinator, Tracy Gordon. “It’s my desire that every student understands what opportunities are available right in their backyard.”

More information about AEOP and the programs offered can be found at www.usaeop.com or email ERDC-STEM-Outreach@usace.army.mil.