STEM educationHelping grow the next generation of scientists

Published 4 August 2014

Scientists, uniformed service members, and the DTRA’s Chemical/Biological Technologies Department (CB) leadership worked hard to make this year’s Joint Science and Technology Institute (JSTI), a summer program for high school-aged students, designed to increase awareness and interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) academics, a success.

Scientists, uniformed service members, and Chemical/Biological Technologies Department (CB) leadership from DTRA/SCC-WMD/SJFHQ-E worked hard to make this year’s Joint Science and Technology Institute (JSTI), a summer program for high school-aged students, designed to increase awareness and interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) academics, a success. The JSTI program took place from 21 July to 1 August at the U.S. Army’s Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC), in Edgewood, Maryland, and nearby Harford Community College. This CB summer program is part of the larger Department of Defense STEM program which aims to develop a competent STEM workforce crucial to the DoD’s ability to defend the United States and to ensure the vitality of the nation’s defense industrial base. President Barak Obama has said that efforts to improve STEM education are “going to make more of a difference in determining how well we do as a country than just about anything else that we do here.”

The organizers say that CB is committed to finding, training, and motivating the next generation of experts in the hard sciences.

DTRA says that this year’s JSTI program accepted approximately 15 percent of the more than 220 high school students from around the country who applied to attend the STEM program, which focused on five areas of the hard sciences such as engineering, computer programming, forensics, and more. “If you look at what the Department of Defense needs, now and in the future,” said U.S. Army Maj. Dale Taylor, a CB program manager, “cyber computer programming is an area of great need, in addition to the traditional hard sciences.”

Officials from the Department of Defense, the STEM Development Office, and the White House Office of Science and Technology visited with the students at ECBC and Harford CC to see their work and assess the benefits of the program.

“I went to (similar) summer programs, and after experiencing the science said, ‘I want to be an engineer,’” said Dr. Laura Stubbs, the director of the STEM Development Office for the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics. “That set me on my course” in science, and “this program can surely make a huge difference to young students.”

Dr. Ronald Hann, CB director, said, “We have some of the best scientists in the world working to combat weapons of mass destruction, but the scientists that will work for them and eventually replace them are still teenagers. The JSTI helps us develop the next generation of scientists that will work to keep our troops, citizens and allies safe from the threat of WMD.”

The release notes that this is the first year the CB STEM Program accepted students from across the country. In the initial years, the program was limited to students in and around the National Capitol Region.

High school students interested in attending next year’s JSTI, and teachers who know of promising students that could benefit from the program, can find more information at http://www.orau.org/center-for-science-education/events/jsti/default.html.

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