ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (July 26, 2016) - For the third year in a row, high school students spent two weeks working side-by-side with U.S. Army engineers and scientists in their labs during the Aberdeen Proving Ground Real-world Internships in Science & Engineering, or RISE, program here July 11-22.
The RISE program is a partnership between the U.S. Army Materiel Command's Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center, known as CERDEC, and the Communications-Electronics Command, or CECOM, which provides in-lab experience for high school students interested in pursuing science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, fields who might otherwise lack inroads.
"The goal is for the kids who ideally already have a longstanding interest in STEM, and who are looking to pursue STEM, to get a taste of what that future feels like to be able to work with engineers who can answer their questions," said Erica Bertoli, CERDEC Educational Outreach Program lead, "And who can tell them, 'yes. You're interested in X, Y, and Z, this is the kind of engineering for you.' It really gives them a taste of what the future might hold."
Previously, the RISE program was only an option for Harford County students. This summer, the program has expanded to include several Cecil County Public School students as well.
"We're trying to slowly grow the program," Bertoli said. "From my perspective, when we look at building a new program I like to build slowly and make sure the infrastructure is in place before we just open it up. So this year we wanted to take another building step forward and that meant bringing in Cecil County where they have such amazing qualified students. We also wanted to make sure that we were serving all parts of our community and not just Harford."
The 27 student interns were divided to work in 10 different CERDEC and CECOM labs and learned everything from cybersecurity to programing robots to battle each other, from more than 30 engineers and scientists who are experts in their fields.
"RISE, as a program, lives or dies by the engineers who participate in it," Bertoli said. "The success of RISE is a direct function of the excellence of the engineers that participate in it. These are engineers who want to do this, who are committed to the idea of paying forward into the new generation, and to fostering these kids."
The RISE program is a paid internship opportunity and student interns are paid a stipend through Oakridge Institute for Science and Education in partnership with the Department of Energy. The stipend is scaled on the student's grade point average the previous school year.
Students are selected into the summer program by a panel of engineers and professionals from the CERDEC and CECOM communities. Students were required to submit two essays, a copy of their transcript and a letter of recommendation. Their names were redacted so all the panelist saw was the content to ensure the most qualified students would be selected.
"We learned how to use software to analyze data," said Alex Beam, a rising senior at Havre de Grace High School, who worked in the CERDEC Command, Power and Integration Directorate for two weeks. "We also learned valuable information about calculus, chemistry and physics so that we can get a head start on college and AP [Advanced Placement] classes."
At the conclusion of the two-week internship, students presented what they learned to APG leadership, their peers and family members at a closing ceremony July 22.
"After these two weeks you all understand that you can be anything you want to be," Bertoli said during the closing ceremony. "All of the opportunities are out there for you, limited only by what you're willing to put into them."
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