“This is the U.S. Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center. I know it’s a long name, but the most important word here is Soldier,” said Bulger, NSRDEC workforce development manager. “Everything we do here is to support the Soldier.”
That is how Bulger greeted the 65 students assembled May 16 in Hunter Auditorium from Franklin (Mass.) High School and Franklin’s Horace Mann Middle School. About 40 high school students and 25 middle school students, accompanied by nine chaperones, divided into small groups to tour facilities on the installation.
At each destination, an expert walked them through the lab, explained the basics of his or her job, answered questions, and provided a demonstration. Middle school children visited the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Lab, Sensory Lab, and Prototype Shop while high school students saw the Thermal Test Facility, Doriot Climatic Chambers, and Fiber Facility.
The middle school kids really enjoyed the science experiments; one seventh grade student in particular was amazed by the MREs: “We had three-year-old cake! But it tasted the same as the other fresh cakes!” A fellow student commented: “The food stuff was really cool. I had never thought of doing this kind of job, but this visit definitely sparked my interest.”
That’s what STEM visits are designed to do. Students are afforded the opportunity to glimpse what they could do in the future should they choose to pursue degrees in science, mathematics, education or technology. Students became scientists when they experimented here, while at the STEM Lab, students created mini bottle rockets, tested fabrics that repelled water, made silly putty, and performed chromatography tests.
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