DPW Natural Resources reaches out to local students

Local high school students check out Directorate of Public Works Natural Resources Branch displays during a 2016 STEM Expo event. | U.S. Army photo by Lindsey Monger, ATEC

The Natural Resources Branch (NRB) within the Directorate of Public Works (DPW) has been involved in numerous local educational outreach activities in recent years. A current focus of their efforts is to become more involved in the educational and vocational experience of local students in the agricultural and natural resource sciences. APG tenants have supported an active and robust science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, educational outreach program for several years. The primary focus of existing APG programs has been about STEM education and careers in engineering, computer science, and the physical sciences. There is potential for the development of STEM outreach by DPW NRB that would include more natural resource and agricultural sciences to support the development of local students in those career areas.

The DPW NRB members have been involved in local community volunteer efforts with the North Harford High School (NHHS) Magnet Program; the Natural Resources Careers Camp through the Maryland Forestry Boards; Envirothon; and Harford County Public Schools, or HCPS. The NRB continues to participate in the Army’s Gains in the Education of Mathematics and Science, or GEMS, summer program at APG and the APG STEM EXPO. The long-range vision of the NRB is to facilitate internships for high school and college level students as a sustainable component of the overall APG STEM program. These internships would be offered to agriculture and natural resource science students seeking to further their education and experience at a federal facility with agricultural and natural resources management challenges.

The short range goal of DPW NRB is to find partnerships and funding for internships for high school students. DPW NRB is in communication with APG tenant organizations that may be able to mentor high school research interns in areas related to agricultural and natural resource sciences. A selection process to identify, screen and select candidates has been developed in coordination with the Maryland ORISE office and the APG HCPS liaison. Collaboration discussions have also been initiated with the University of Maryland Extension Office, Maryland Agricultural Education Foundation and Harford Community College, to develop opportunities for high school and college students.

Upcoming APG STEM events and activities in 2017 for DPW NRB and local students include mentoring and supplying wildlife harvest data to students at NHHS; Arbor Day activities in conjunction with APG Centennial events and the GEMS III summer course which is focused on alternative energy sources. The course will include hands-on activities with students, and instruction on related STEM concepts, to demonstrate the anaerobic digestion of livestock manure for “biogas” (methane) generation and energy use. This technology is a growing research field at the University of Maryland and Pennsylvania State University and is being increasingly applied at farms and landfills in Maryland and worldwide. Biogas production and use also has applications for the military.

The institutional knowledge and experience pipeline of mission landscape management and natural resources stewardship coupled with exciting new ideas and perspectives brought by enthusiastic students is an opportunity for the Army at APG and a potential future vocation for local students interested in agriculture and natural resource related careers. DPW NRB will continue to participate in perennial APG STEM events for local students and the general public. APG DPW NRB continues to move forward on capitalizing on Ag STEM partnership opportunities between APG natural resource professionals and interested high school and college students that will forge a future workforce of scientists for APG and the nation.

To become involved or for more information about NRB agricultural and natural resource STEM outreach, email APG Forrester Scott English at scott.d.english.civ@mail.mil.

By John Leader, DPW Natural Resources Branch