ARL Family Day celebrates future generation

Families prepare for the day's events at the 2017 U.S. Army Research Laboratory Bring Your Child to Work Day and Open Campus Family Day held Thursday, April 27 at the Adelphi Laboratory Center in Maryland. | U.S. Army photo by Jhi Scott, ARL

ADELPHI, Md.— The U.S. Army Research Laboratory hosted hundreds of children at its facilities in Maryland and New Mexico during the national Bring Your Child to Work Day.

At its Adelphi Laboratory Center, ARL family members also joined the celebration for the laboratory’s Open Campus Family Day.

Children of the Army Research Laboratory workforce experiment with Soldier cuisine while tasting Meals-Ready-To-Eat — packaged food prepared for Army field operations — during the U.S. Army Research Laboratory Bring Your Child to Work Day April 27, 2017 at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. | U.S. Army photo

Officials designed a fun-filled day to go “beyond the common practice of children shadowing their parents at work.”

While exposing young people to the important work their parents do to support Soldiers, the event also provided multiple opportunities to see science and technology at work and take part in hands-on and interactive activities throughout the laboratory.

The year’s theme, “Count On Me,” embodied the importance of what it means to be dependable and was designed to teach children and teens how this skill is important in education, interactions with the community and workplaces.

At Adelphi, youth discovered the power of possibilities and embraced the belief that they can be anything they want to be — provided they are willing to work hard and do what’s necessary to achieve their dreams.

The event received an early morning highlight and boost of energy as the ABC network television show Good Morning America broadcasted live from the lab’s location showcasing Soldiers interacting with children at a mock morning physical fitness activity.

Sgt. 1st Class Bobby Martin, Jr., led the small group in a series of exercise drills that mimicked the world of a young Soldier attending a basic military training installation.

The training preceded the “Bring Your Child to Work Day” opening ceremony, which featured local Washington, D.C., television affiliate NBC4 Morning Show Anchor Eun Yang, alumna of Paint Branch (Silver Spring, Maryland) High School and University of Maryland.

Yang spoke directly to the youth in the audience emphasizing the event’s theme, “Count On Me!”

Children participate in the Severe Weather Lab at the 2017 U.S. Army Research Laboratory Bring Your Child to Work Day and Open Campus Family Day April 27, 2017 at the Adelphi Laboratory Center in Maryland. | U.S. Army photo

“I am counting on you because you are our future,” Yang said. “You are bright. You are smart. And if you do what we are counting on you to do — be a good student, be a good citizen, learn, ask questions and grow. I think that means you can be successful and fulfill your dreams as well. So we’re counting on you and you can do it!”

Faith Baldwin, a program manager for the Take our Daughters and Sons to Work Foundation, also provided opening ceremony remarks.

Had it not been for an email request she received for a foundation logo from Evelyn Bond, an ARL coordinator for the Bring Your Child to Work Day event, she would not have known how exciting a day ARL was planning for its youth at ALC, she said.

Bond told her ARL’s event included activities that involved Star Wars storm troopers, robots and virtual reality exhibits. And despite the hundreds of similar events that she helps coordinate each year, it was her conversation with Bond that promoted her to ask for a special invitation to attend the event in Adelphi.

“I am really, really excited and overwhelmed to be here at today’s event,” Baldwin said. “You all are incredible. The foundation strongly supports this event today.”

ARL families participated in a variety of activities such as drone demonstrations where students learned about the technology and maneuverability of robotic vehicles, a timed race against the clock during the challenging game, “Minute to Win It,” thermin (making music with the wave of a hand), metal detectors and an ARL25 Scavenger Hunt.

Many interactive labs activities highlighted integrated science, technology, engineering and math to include 3D printing, severe weather and fingerprinting labs. The virtual reality tour provided youth the experience of being immersed into technology through an Oculus Rift — Dream Deck application.

Among the favorite activities of the day was the deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, lab where students performed the scientific method of extracting DNA from fruit and were encouraged to determine the importance of scientists extracting DNA from organisms.

DNA is code and acts as an instruction manual for all living organisms.

ARL Sergeant Major, Master Sgt. Richard Socia, registered his 4th grade daughter for the DNA lab. He said he believes her previous STEM related experience, coupled with her day of activities at ARL, will have a positive and lasting impact.

“This event gives our children the opportunity to see what it is we do on a daily basis. Although they don’t get to see the mundane tasks we do in our offices. We open up the possibility for them to see what we do in the labs for the Soldier and meet the people we work with,” Socia said.

DNA lab participant Jaqueline Socia said what she found most interesting about the lab was learning how important the extraction process is for scientists.

“You can’t learn everything you need to know about certain organisms just by looking at them,” Jaqueline said. “Extracting their DNA will help you understand so much more.”

This year’s event also featured vehicles and animals from the Montgomery County Fire and EMS, Prince George’s County Fire and EMS, Maryland National Capital Park Police Horse Mounted Unit, Fire Prevention Trailer and the 501st Legion’s Old Line Garrison (a Star Wars costuming group).

Montgomery County’s Paint Branch High School provided a Color Guard and National Anthem singer.

At Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, more than 120 ARL sons and daughters members gathered at the Mallette Training Facility for demonstrations and hands-on experimentation.

The APG event featured a helicopter landing, face painting, an obstacle course, making ice cream with liquid nitrogen and a static display of military vehicles.

“We also had an environmental lesson about identifying trees,” said Leslie York-Hubbard, ARL Laboratory Operations. “We covered topics and themes, including robotics and solving mysteries with chemistry.”

York-Hubbard said it was a great culmination of people giving their time and knowledge.

“It helped children better understand science and the Soldier,” she said.

“Many of the events were different than from previous years,” said Tracy Talsma, ARL Laboratory Operations.

Talsma said when they get exposed to science and technology at a young age it helps them to understand it better.

“It makes the whole learning process much more fun,” she said.

Talsma said they received many emails from parents thanking them for the event and already got volunteers for next year.

ARL families at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, also participated in the annual event as several children shadowed their parents during normal work day activities.

Next year will mark 25 years that the national Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Foundation has advocated for the event.

“By bringing girls and boys together, we will continue to create a more equitable world– at home, at school, in the workplace and in the community,” wrote Executive Director Carolyn McKecuen. “This year we are celebrating the opportunities that girls and boys will discover and the opportunities for parents, mentors and the community to continue involvement in this unique educational experience.”

By Tracie R. Dean, Army Research Laboratory