Lab, County Continue Science, Technology Education Partnership

By ARL Public Affairs

A collaborative effort between the U.S. Army Research Laboratory and Harford County Public Schools has been underway at the APG STEM and Education Outreach Center for the past two years.

Physics and Chemistry Explorations in STEM, or PACES, has proven to be “an exceptional program for surrounding schools,” officials said.

PACES provides students with a day of hands-on laboratory activities and opportunities to interact with Army scientists and engineers. More than 600 eighth-grade students from five area middle schools participated in the pilot program that launched at the STEM and Education Center in January 2015.

Harford County eighth- grade students participate in the Physics and Chemistry Explorations in STEM program at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory's STEM Outreach Center at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. (U.S. Army photos) (Photo Credit: Joyce M. Conant, ARL)

Harford County eighth- grade students participate in the Physics and Chemistry Explorations in STEM program at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory’s STEM Outreach Center at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. (U.S. Army photos) (Photo Credit: Joyce M. Conant, ARL)

The center serves as the home base for ARL STEM Outreach programs at APG. During the 2015-2016 school year, PACES expanded to include all of the county’s eighth-grade students.

Andrew Renzulli, HCPS science advisor, said that as a result of the positive student and teacher feedback, they have successfully leveraged STEM funding to continue offering PACES.

“Curriculum modules for PACES align with the next generation science standards and blends aspects of physics, chemistry, mathematics, technology and engineering as students participate in experiential learning,” Renzulli said.

Lab experiences are based on cell phone technology and designed to peak student interests. Students experimented with various combinations of electro-chemicals, analyzed data and determined which combination would provide maximum voltage to power a battery. They also had to determine correlations to ARL science initiatives regarding the Army’s ability to efficiently create, maneuver and store power to support military field operations.

In the physical science lab, students used a variety of common household items to build working speakers to determine how a speaker uses electricity, magnetism and vibrations to produce sound. Results were analyzed among the various mediums use to identify variables that affect the quality of the sound produced. Students used a personal sound meter with earbuds, donated by Hollins Communications Research Institute, to determine if their individual listening level falls within a safe range.

Cindy Dinunno, ARL-APG STEM outreach coordinator and ARL speaker lab instructor, developed a third lab where students will be able to build a touch screen.

“I really enjoy the direct interaction with the students,” Dinunno said. “One of my most rewarding moments was when a team of girls, upon hearing music through the speaker they built exclaimed, ‘We could be scientists!’ Our goal is to inspire these students to discover and explore the many STEM opportunities available to them.”

Katie Hall, ARL-APG STEM outreach site manager said she is happy with the program’s progress.

“In 2016, PACES was expanded to encompass all 3,000 Harford County public school eighth-grade students,” Hall said. “We were fortunate to gain assistance from members of ARL’s Post-Doctoral Association. The post docs volunteered their time to lead lunch discussions and spoke about various cutting-edge technologies. They provided invaluable insight about a wide range of STEM educational paths and career opportunities.”

The laboratory’s ability to inspire youth in STEM hinges upon engagements with Army scientists and engineers, officials said. In preparation for the upcoming year of PACES, STEM personnel are collaborating with scientists and engineers to develop additional opportunities for students to be exposed to Army science.

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